How a Seattle start-up creates personalized preventive health care plans

by: Jeff Dubois Updated:

Tukwila businessman Dave Sabey takes the stairs as often as he can. At 69, his days of playing Husky football under legendary coach Jim Owens have long past.

But Sabey's drive to be healthier is taking him down a revolutionary road that could change the health care industry forever.

Sabey is one of the first people in the world to try a state-of-the-art, scientific approach to wellness created by Seattle bio-tech startup Arivale.

The company uses a patient's DNA, and other biological tests, to create a personalized preventive health care plan.

Scientific data to find out what's going on with your body and develop specific ways to make you healthier.

"I think it's fundamentally going to change the world,” said Arivale founder Dr. Lee Hood.

The bio-tech company raised $36 million in initial funding in 2015, and went public with the service last summer.

After having a genetic scan and other tests, members like Sabey are given a scientific wellness plan.
Sabey now wears an Arivale-supplied Fitbit to track his steps.

But his personal health plan goes way beyond just more physical activity.

Sabey's DNA genome revealed his body doesn't process caffeine properly.

So, he switched from caffeinated tea and coffee, which always made him jittery and uneasy, to organic caffeine-free tea.

"I feel a lot better,” said Sabey. “I've lost 15 to 20 pounds, and kept it off."

Dr. Hood is a pioneer in the bio-tech industry and the brain behind Arivale.

The 74-year-old has created more than a dozen companies, including the world's largest bio-tech firm, Amgen.

"We're entering a new era where we can be what we have the potential to be," said Hood.

Hood was one of the subjects in Arivale's original testing.

His DNA profile revealed his body doesn't absorb Vitamin D the way it should.

Now, he takes a 10,000-milligram supplement every day.

Another Arivale member discovered she was pre-diabetic, but reversed her condition after following the recommendations of her Arivale "coach."

Coaches communicate with more than a thousand members every week, guiding them through their scientific wellness plan.

And Arivale is adding coaches by the week, anticipating a massive increase in members, as word of the technology gets out.

"A year from now, we'll be in the thousands,” said Arivale CEO Clayton Lewis. “Five years from now, we'll be in the millions. People want to take control of their well-being."

But taking control with a personalized plan is expensive. Joining Arivale costs $4,000 for the genetic work-up and one year of data analysis and coaching. Health insurance doesn’t cover any of it.

Arivale hopes the falling costs of genetic testing will allow it to cut the price to less than $1,000 in five years.

In the meantime, the bio-tech startup is approaching private companies about offering the program to employees and subsidizing the cost.

"They view this as a very helpful program,” said Lewis, “for helping them attract new employees, helping them retain their employees, and thinking about employee productivity long term."

Sabey, who is a member, is also part of the first company to sign up. Arivale just announced Sabey Corp., which owns and operates data storage centers around the country, is offering Arivale memberships to all full-time employees at no cost.

"I already see people walking around the building and going up steps,” said Sabey, “because we get real competitive with these Fitbits."

With 150 employees, it's a $600,000 investment.

But Sabey says it's the responsible thing for him to do.

"Our family lives are better if we're healthy.  Our work lives are better if we're healthy. And our longevity is better if we're healthy," said Sabey.

For more information about Arivale and its program, check out the website here.