Linda Avey, the cofounder of genetic testing service 23andme, wasn’t content with starting a company that brought genome-sharing from the sci-fi realm into reality. She had to do more. Avey’s most recent mission: creating a personal data sharing and analytics platform through her new startup Curious, Inc. We spoke to Avey about the future of personal genomics, health data tracking, and how Curious will empower patients.
The premise of Curious, Inc.: We’re really hoping to tap into general human curiosity. It’s in our tagline: "We’ve got questions." The premise of our company is that people have a lot of questions, particularly about their heath, and aren’t finding the right answers and solutions because they’re just not out there. This is a platform for people to come together and start to ask questions of their own data, or if they want to find others who share their questions, have this ability to pose their questions and go on missions to discover answers. So if people who have migraine headaches come together and they all think it’s because of the weather, and others say "No, it’s because I eat too much salt" … we can look for correlations we think are there but aren’t sure.
How the platform can tell patients whether their herbal supplements will really work: It’s one thing to say this random person thinks this one supplement they got at Whole Foods made [a difference]. The more you can make it quantitative, the more I think people will start to trust it. We can track what it was supposed to be impacting, see if [people] slept better, had more energy.
Using Curious on caffeinated engineers: It doesn’t have to be just health-related. Almost all the [software]engineers I’ve ever worked with drink a lot of caffeine, and I’d love to have them start tracking how many drinks they have a day and however they want to measure their productivity in their coding to see if there is a correlation and whether it drops off after a certain saturation level with caffeine.
Personal genomics and data tracking as a way to encourage wellness: Catching things early and being able to get the information and act on it sooner rather than later can put us much more into a prevention model. Seeing data that says you don’t necessarily have something but you have a risk for something is where we need to move the whole wellness industry. Now that I’ve stepped out of it for a couple years, I see that it’s just one piece of the puzzle and there will be all other kinds of ways for people to access their data. Personal genomics was a good place to start because it’s a concrete thing.
On the proliferation of data-tracking devices: That’s something that we’ll be keeping a close eye on. I feel like a geek when I go running. I have my Nike FuelBand, my Endomondo, and my Garmin [Forerunner] 110. I’m looking forward to things coming to market like the Basis Watch, which measures heart rate, temperature, and other biodata points.
The potential for data-tracking health devices to truly hit the mainstream: It will hit the mainstream especially when it’s commoditized and it’s clear what the tracking will bring you. There’s an opportunity for startups like Curious to not only provide data in one place but to start to learn from it and take actionable steps based on the data that will hopefully improve overall wellness.