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An Ounce of Prevention…

The personalized medicine market is revving up, and La Jolla-based MD Revolution Inc. is at the forefront. The company combines genetic testing with data from mobile tracking devices to tailor wellness programs to fit a patient’s individual health needs.

“We’re getting more and more information from genetic testing, fitness devices, mobile medical devices, electronic medical records — but they’re all operating in silos,” said Samir Damani, the company’s founder and CEO. “With MD Revolution, we’ve integrated this data into one simple model.”

The company just launched a new website, called RevUp — a sort of digital catch-all that pulls information from a variety of fitness and medical devices.

The site displays the information on a dashboard, making it easy for physicians, nutritionists and other experts to continually track a patient’s overall health. As patients hit milestones or perhaps fail to reach certain goals, they get messages from various MD Revolution team members for encouragement or guidance.

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The site’s built on a series of algorithms that individualize a patient’s health plan based on their genetic data, as well as current health. The plan changes as the patient’s lifestyle and physical health change. RevUp, which has a patent pending, automates the MD Revolution clinical model for corporations, physicians and health systems looking for a patient engagement platform.

The RevUp system is HIPAA compliant and interoperable with electronic medical records.

‘A New Specialty’

“In a sense we’ve created a new specialty that’s fueled by the use of digital tools,” Damani said.

The personalized medicine market, which includes diagnostics, wellness and telemedicine, was worth $232 billion in 2009 and could grow to more than $452 billion by 2015, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC.

The company operates on the $1.35 million it raised from individuals and angel investors, along with fees from patients currently in the program, said Camille Saltman, the company’s president. Saltman joined MD Revolution in 2012, having served as the president of San Diego-based technology and entrepreneurship organization Connect for six years.

The company, with headquarters in La Jolla’s XiMed building, features a wellness clinic with the aesthetic of an Apple Store or an upscale day spa. In it are treadmill and exercise bikes, and various tools to measure a patient’s body fat and metabolic functions. It also provides genetic testing from San Diego-based Pathway Genomics, which determine a patient’s predisposition to certain disorders. The company uses the data from the clinic to further personalize participants’ profiles.

About 200 people have joined the program in the past year. Damani, a National Institutes of Health-funded researcher, said the statistical significance from data he’s pulled is profound — about 90 percent are seeing distinct changes in their body fat levels, and improving their overall health.

Subscription Model

The program is switching to a tiered subscription model, with plans to charge between $20 and $60 per month for a varying level of services. This differs from a year ago, when the practice charged a one-time fee for packages ranging between $2,000 and $10,000.

Saltman said that the investment in wellness is minimal when compared with the downstream savings in patient care. For example, by using health maintenance to prevent an employee who has two chronic disease risk factors from developing complications, more than $15,000 can be saved.

Cumulatively this could drive down health premium costs, Saltman said. Certain portions of the wellness plan can be covered by health insurance, and the company is working to expand that as insurance providers begin moving further into the health maintenance space.

Franchising Possibilities

Damani and Saltman are now looking at ways to scale the program. They have plans to eventually franchise the business — with Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Orange County as the initial target areas for expansion.

They are also exploring ways to license their software to hospitals and corporate wellness programs, and are working with several health care systems to roll out the wellness plan to their employees, Saltman said.

“We’re leading the charge,” Damani said. “We’ve already built a system, shown how it works. We’re coming out with Version 1.0 — but ultimately what we’re going to do is continually innovate.

Tim Scott, CEO of San Diego’s Pharmatek Laboratories Inc., has enrolled about a dozen members of his senior management in the MD Revolution program. He plans to evaluate the wellness program’s efficacy over six months, measuring whether members of his company show health and performance improvement.

He has extended the wellness initiative to the rest of the company, which employs about 100, encouraging workers to purchase FitBits. If employees meet certain health goals for the subsequent three months, Pharmatek will reimburse them for the cost of the device.

“I was initially attracted after seeing all the data that’s showing that absenteeism and health care costs can be brought down with a good wellness program,” Scott said. “My personal belief is that if you’re healthy and fit, you’re happy — and that will reflect direction with our employees’ interactions with our clients.”

And Scott sees a future in these kinds of programs. For instance, when hiring executives he finds they request disability and life insurance packages as part of their compensation plans — but thinks that adding a wellness package could be just as important in attracting and retaining talent.

“I don’t think executives are necessarily demanding it yet, but employers can say — we also offer a wellness package, because you need to be fit and well as well,” Scott said.

The company has partnered with Qualcomm Life, the wholly owned health technology subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc. MD Revolution’s new site pulls data from Qualcomm Life’s 2net Hub, which uses cloud-based networks to transfer, store, convert and display biometric data from fitness and medical devices.

Data stored on Qualcomm Life’s 2net hub will be inserted into the MD Revolution RevUp dashboard, and as the site continues to evolve, more and more devices will be added, said Rick Valencia, vice president of Qualcomm Inc. and the founder and general manager of Qualcomm Life.

“There are a lot of people that claim to be the innovators or pioneers in this space, but very few are actually out there physically working in the space, trying things out, seeing what works and what doesn’t in an environment where they can’t harm, only help,” Valencia said. “Dr. Damani is a pioneer in the space — he’s not just talking about it, he’s deploying it.”

But it’ll take time to take off, Valencia said.

“This is very early stage stuff,” he said. “What it looks like even a year or two from now will be dramatically different. It’ll take some time for it to be universally adopted and make an impact, but you don’t get there until someone starts working it, trying to get patients engaged.”

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