One of the most fundamental accessibility benefits of this technological-driven age is how much product can be delivered to our doorstep. From UberEats to Amazon to Apple Store purchases and more, that goods can magically appear at people’s doorsteps in a matter of hours (in some cases) is not merely convenient and the result of lusting after instant gratification. From an accessibility perspective, having things be delivered to one’s home is an essential lifesaver for many disabled people who cannot (or should not) traipse around the community to do their shopping. The more cynical amongst us liken these on-demand delivery services as catering to our laziest impulses, but that viewpoint could not be more wrong or ableist. Especially for healthcare items like medication and Covid tests, the impact of home delivery becomes more profound.
So it goes for the team at healthcare startup Viome.
The company says on its website it helps customers, using artificial intelligence, “discover the best foods, supplements, and probiotics for your health with advanced RNA-based testing for your microbiome [which] address root causes and supporting overall wellness and longevity.” Moreover, Viome emphasizes the “body sends signals before symptoms,” adding that “the science and technology behind your personalized recommendations and products are designed to identify and target hard-to-detect, underlying causes of microbial imbalance and inflammation in the body.” Viome builds at-home tests, shipping direct to its customers, which are designed to help people formulate a better understanding of their health. The company offers two subscriptions, a full-body solution priced at $199 per month and a $69 per month gut health solution, with either test arriving at homes on a monthly basis.
Users can track their wellness journey on their smartphone, as Viome’s data integrates with an app available on both iOS and Android.
“Viome offers individuals an easy and accessible way to understand what is going on in their bodies. Through its at-home microbiome tests that leverage mRNA sequencing in combination with AI, Viome translates over a billion data points about each person into precise and comprehensive health scores giving them recommendations including foods, vitamins, herbs, food extracts, minerals, amino acids, prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. We then turn these insights into custom-made supplements which are formulated with the exact dosages for each individual,” said Viome founder and CEO Naveen Jain in a recent interview with me conducted over email. “Viome’s approach zeroes in on the root causes of health symptoms which are a precursor for chronic diseases, rather than merely alleviating superficial symptoms. Addressing these foundational issues is vital for resilient lasting health.”
Jain explained his company’s mission as addressing the “escalating epidemic of chronic diseases that have surged over the past few decades as society has come to accept the onset of chronic disease and waits until they’re sick to solve the problem.” As to what compelled him to start Viome, Jain told me today’s nutritional practices “often overlook our unique biochemistry and our microbiome, failing to consider how it fluctuates in response to foods and supplements as well as external factors such as stress, physical activity, medications, and more,” adding that the company’s data uncovers the “vast variations” in how people respond to the food and supplements they consume. Using research and peer-reviewed studies, he said, Viome has a “deep understanding of the dynamic state of the microbiome and the human body.” This, combined with the company’s proprietary technology, enables Viome to bring “precision nutrition” to the masses by using food as medicine.
“There isn’t a universal one-size-fits-all diet or supplement,” Jain said. “Recommendations of fad diets and generic supplements are the most misleading. The only true way to gain insights into your body’s unique needs and responses is through regular testing and monitoring, which measuring gene expression (RNA) can do [for people].”
At first blush, what Jain and Viome do seems only tangentially related to accessibility. Look deeper, however, and it’s easy to see learning more about one’s health can be advantageous for people with certain conditions. Viome could very well help someone manage their gut health, for instance, due to some pre-existing condition which requires closer management. This makes Viome an assistive technology both ways: not only can a person get tests shipped direct to them, but the test itself can be a tool for making one’s health more accessible in terms of maintenance and understanding. These are not insignificant details; they extend far beyond the raison d’être of Viome doing work around AI and microbiomes and other highfalutin medical stuff. What’s more, this should, theoretically, benefit the legions of disabled people who cope with chronic illness and other conditions every single day.
As ever, accessibility lies in everything—even when it isn’t obvious.
Jain echoed that idea when explaining who benefits from Viome. Individuals, he told me, experience inflammation from a variety of sources, including joint pain, hormonal imbalances, mental health, and more. He said less than 5% of diseases are genetically linked, with the other 95% being things which are able to be prevented or even reversed.
“At its core, Viome is more than just a solution—it’s a lifestyle that caters to each individual’s inflammation to give them more than just a temporary fix,” Jain said. “Unfortunately, our current healthcare system doesn’t prioritize prevention because it is more expensive to be sick which is why Viome takes the opposite approach and leverages precision nutrition and health insights to shift the paradigm and make healthcare accessible to everyone.”
When asked how technology plays a role in shaping Viome, Jain replied by first explaining the medical industry mostly sees helping people by treating illnesses more than the prevention of them. By contrast, tech companies like Viome take the inverse approach to reframing the narrative, Jain said, by “by coming up with proprietary technologies that leverage years of research to provide individualized approaches.” Jain went further, telling me his company’s “cutting-edge mRNA sequencing technology,” which he described as a product of “a decade’s rigorous development” at Los Alamos National Laboratory for National Security, have empowered Viome to identify early signs of health issues and chronic conditions. According to Jain, Viome’s technology has the capability to process a mind-boggling 52 quadrillion biological data points, which then seamlessly integrate with breakthrough insights from what Jain called “thousands of peer-reviewed external research papers, clinical trials, and the sequencing of over 700,000 samples.”
“Through automation and the development of patented methodologies, we are bringing the cost of digitizing a single sample from the human body down to under $100 from over $1,000,” Jain said of the impact Viome has had. “Our technology has improved the accuracy of the data to make it accessible to billions of people around the world.”
As to feedback on his company’s work, Jain cited a bunch of statistics. With an ever-burgeoning number of people using the Viome tests, he said the AI system has correspondingly become “increasingly adept.” Jain said 86% of users experienced improvements in at least one area of their health, while 70% reported seeing benefits spanning multiple health areas. 74% noted “enhancement in the primary health concern” as the reason they were drawn to Viome. Jain said a study commissioned by Viome showed, among other things, 40% improvement for people with “pronounced anxiety” with another 31% of those experiencing severe anxiety and depression noticing betterment. This outpaces the “20–30% efficacy rate of conventional antidepressants,” Jain said.
“As we uncover the Microbiome’s significant role in chronic diseases and aging, Viome’s methodology stands out,” George Church, a professor at Harvard Medical School and professor of health sciences and technology at Hardboard and MIT, said in a statement provided to me. “By analyzing gene expression of both the human and microbial genome, Viome not only discerns the root causes of various diseases but also pioneers a personalized nutrition strategy based on these insights. Their approach promises a future where we can both prevent and reverse chronic ailments.”
Looking towards the future, Jain said the path forward is clear.
“Viome is devoted to a future where chronic illness is a matter of the personal choices we make every day, not a predetermined destiny,” he said. “We are confident that by bringing the best minds together and creating advanced technologies we can significantly reduce the impact of chronic diseases.”
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