By Michael Nova M.D.
To describe me as a health nut would be a gross understatement. I run five days a week, bench press 275 pounds, do 120 pushups at a time, and surf the really big waves in Indonesia. I don’t eat red meat, I typically have berries for breakfast and salad for dinner, and I consume an immense amount of kale—even though I don’t like the way it tastes. My daily vitamin/supplement regimen includes Alpha-lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q and Resveratrol. And, yes, I wear one of those fitness gizmos around my neck to count how many steps I take in a day.
I have been following this regimen for years, and it’s an essential part of my life.
For anybody concerned about health, diet and fitness, these are truly amazing times. There’s a superabundance of health and fitness information published online. We’re able to tap into our electronic health records, we can measure just about everything we do physically, and, thanks to the plummeting price of gene sequencing, we can map our complete genomes for as little as $3000 and get readings on smaller chunks of genomic data for less than $100.
Think of it as your own personal health big-data tsunami.
The problem is we’re confronted with way too much of a good thing. There’s no way an individual like me or you can process all of the raw information that’s available to us—much less make sense out of it. That’s why I’m looking forward to being one of the first customers for a new mobile app that my company, Pathway Genomics, is developing with help from IBM Watson Group.
Called Pathway Panorama, the smartphone app will make it possible for individuals to ask questions in everyday language and get answers in less than three seconds that take into consideration their personal health, diet and fitness scenarios combined with more general information. The result is recommendations that fit each of us like a surfer’s wet suit.Say you’ve just flown from your house on the coast to a city that’s 10,000 feet above sea level. You might want to ask how far you could safely run on your first day after getting off the plane—and at what pulse rate should you slow your jogging pace.
Or say you’re diabetic and you’re in a city you have never visited before. You had a pastry for breakfast and you want to know when you should take your next shot of insulin. In an emergency, you’ll be able to find specialized healthcare providers near where you are who can take care of you.
Whether you’re totally healthy and want to maximize your physical performance or you have health issues and want to reduce risks, this service will give you the advice you need. It’s like a guardian angel sitting on your shoulder who will also pre-emptively offer you help even if you don’t ask for it.
We use Watson’s language processing and cognitive abilities and combine them with information from a host of sources. The critical data comes from individual DNA and biomarker analysis that Pathway Genomics performs using a variety of devices and software tools.
Pathway Genomics, which launched 6 years ago in San Diego, already has a growing business of providing individual health reports delivered primarily through individuals’ personal physicians. With our Pathway Panorama app, we’ll reach out directly to consumers in a big way.
We’re in the middle of raising a new round of venture financing to pay for the expansion of our business. This brings to $80 million the amount of venture capital we have raised in the past six years—which makes us one of the best capitalized healthcare startups.
IBM is investing in Pathway Genomics as part of its commitment of $100 million to companies that are bringing to market a new generation of apps and services infused with Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence. This is the third such investment IBM has made this year.
We expect the app to be available in midi2015. We have not yet set pricing, but we expect to charge a small monthly fee. We also are creating a version for physicians.
To me, the real beauty of the Panorama app is that it will make it possible for us to safeguard our health and improve our fitness without obsessing all the time. We’ll just live our lives, and, when we need help, we’ll get it.
To learn more about the new era of computing, read Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing.