By Emily Hughes
BU News Service
BOSTON – The annual John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo marked the beginning of the Boston Marathon festivities. This year the event drew over 100,000 people to the city’s Seaport World Trade Center. From local businesses like Polar Beverages to Dunkin’ Donuts running shoes, which literally let wearers “run on Dunkin’,” the expo showcased the best Boston has to offer. And, in classic Boston tradition, the Biotech industry joined in on the fun.
Silicon Valley startup, Helix, and local group, Orig3n, sent employees to represent their respective companies at the expo. Both companies are part of a growing wave of personalized consumer DNA testing.
Orig3n, which started in Boston four years ago, promises its customers, “Together, we can create a healthier future.” Unlike companies like 23andMe, Orig3n’s DNA analysis focuses specifically on communicating health and fitness information. By empowering the consumer with their personal genetic information, Orig3n hopes to help consumers adjust routines around fitness and diet. Orig3n’s Daniel Velardo sees the technology as a tool to “help people live a healthy lifestyle.”
Helix gives consumers more freedom to personalize what genetic analysis they receive. After sequencing the customer’s DNA, the company stores the genetic information in a cloud server. The customer can choose different analysis products from a range of roughly 25 partner companies. These companies offer everything from ancestry to posters of the customer’s sequenced DNA.
“It’s a totally different way to engage with DNA,” said Helix biotechnician, Sharon Briggs, after proudly showing a photo of her own DNA sequence poster. Both Orig3n and Helix give consumers a new way to think about their genome and their health.