Rare diseases, or those that affect less than 200,000 individuals in their disease group, aren’t as uncommon as the name indicates. In fact, one in ten Americans are living with a rare disease, 80% of which are genetic. These ailments hurt the world, with genetic diseases causing 20% to 30% of infant deaths and 12% of adult hospital admissions. Thankfully, Orig3n, a Boston based biotechnology company is working on a solution. What’s more? You’ll get to learn about yourself along the way.
Teaching You About Yourself, Using Yourself
Orig3n, founded in 2014 by Robin Smith and Kate Blanchard, sells DNA tests that reveal genetic traits. They currently have six tests available, focusing on general traits and abilities, fitness potential, skin, behavior, nutrition and child development. These deliver information such as potential for nicotine dependence, ability for skeletal muscle to perform at high velocity, genetic capacity for empathy and more. The tests are reasonable priced, starting as low as $29 and increasing to $149. Orig3n hopes these kits will provide you with insight and guidance into your strengths and advisory for potential risks. However, these insights aren’t a diagnosis. Orig3n stresses that, even if your genetics may make you apt for certain traits, only you can determine what you do and that anything can be accomplished with personal effort. These genetic traits are not your fate, but can provide useful guidance.
Simple, Safe and Secure
Image Courtesy of @ORIG3N_Inc on Twitter
If you’re intrigued, but worried about a terrifying genetic extraction, worry no longer. Orig3n’s tests could not be easier. Simply order the test package online, swab your cheek and register the kit. Then all that’s left to do is send the sample back in the prepaid envelope. You don’t even have to wait for results to return through mail; the company’s LifeProfile app (available both online and on the iTunes app store) brings the results to your screen as soon as they come. And, if you ever decide to purchase another test, Orig3n will use your existing information so you don’t have to swab again.
Even with such an easy test, it can be a little scary sending so much genetic information about yourself to a company. This is why Orig3n has made your privacy their priority. Your samples never leave their lab, as they are all processed in house by their genotyping machine and team of scientists. You can opt in to share your genetic information with the company to be used for research, but until you do, they have no access to it. Results are even encrypted before being transmitted to you through LifeProfile.
Custom Cells: The Future of Therapeutics
Image Courtesy of prnewswire.com
This is cool and all, but how does it all tie back to rare genetic diseases? Something Orig3n’s customers may not know is that they hold the world’s largest human cell bank, with thousands of donors. Separate from their genetic testing service, Orig3n collect’s blood samples from volunteers for LifeCapsule, their blood cell repository. The company collects donations at special events held all around the country. Yet again prioritizing your privacy, all blood donations are completely anonymous. Using technology discovered by Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon at Kyoto University, which they earned a Nobel Prize for, Orig3n can convert these regular blood cells into Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells.
iPS cells are stem cells created from existing adult cells, like the blood donations collected by Orig3n. These cells can turn into any other kind, such as heart cells, liver cells, brain cells and more. Orig3n hopes to use iPS cell technology and LifeCapsule to lead the way in regenerative medicine. This could enable the creation of custom organ’s designed from patients existing cells to develop transplants. The current wait time for a kidney transplant is five years, so this treatment has massive implications for health sciences. In fact, Orig3n is already working to develop treatments for rare genetically inherited diseases of the heart, liver and neurodegenerative locations. The company has set 2021 as a goal for developing personalized treatments for these diseases.
With $20 million received in their latest funding round and progress on both their DNA tests and regenerative therapies continuing full speed ahead, we here at Peppergang can’t wait to see what Orig3n has in store.
Interested in more incredible Boston innovators like Orig3n? Check out our last Spicy Spotlight, on the agricultural tech company putting farms in boxes!