‘The whole field of nutrition is in the dark ages’: Dr Lee Hood


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Source: PLMI
Source: PLMI

Related tags Medicine Biotechnology

The market capital of a wellness industry that aims to promote and maintain good health will vastly exceed the current treatment-focused disease industry, says Dr Lee Hood, MD, PhD, President & Co-Founder, Institute for Systems Biology.

The implications and opportunities for ‘wellness’ are numerous, but the current thinking in nutrition research is holding the field back, particularly when it comes to the clinical trial approach, Dr Hood told attendees at the recent Thought Leaders Consortium hosted by the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute.

“The whole field of nutrition is in the dark ages, and the only way we’re going to move it forward is with strategically targeted n=1 experiments,” ​Dr Hood told attendees at the recent Thought Leaders Consortium hosted by the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute.


Dr Hood’s presentation focused on how systems medicine and proactive P4 medicine (predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory) is transforming healthcare.

P4 medicine differs from contemporary medicine in many ways, most notably it is proactive, the focus is on the individual, the focus is on wellness, there is a need to create data clouds, and there is an acknowledgement that current clinical trials have failed miserably (in P4 medicine the population for trials n=1).

“Soon each individual will be surrounded by a virtual cloud of billions of multi-scale data points,”​ he told attendees, and this includes –omics data (genome, phenome, epigenome, proteome, transcriptome, etc), single cell data, tele-health, and even social media.

“This includes many different types of data, scaling from molecules to social networks,”​ he explained. “We’ll be able to mine that data to create models for each individual to optimize wellness and avoid disease.”

“And by creating a network of networks, from the molecular to the cellular to the organ and even to the whole, and doing it early on we can get insights into the earliest origins of disease.”

Shifting the paradigm

All of this will lead to a paradigm shift for health and wellness, said Dr Hood. According to Thomas Kuhn’s The structure of scientific revolutions​, paradigm changes are fundamental revolutions in how we think about aspects of science. “They are very hard to achieve because of the enormously conservative nature of most scientists and their skepticism,”​ said Dr Hood. “If you are a cynic you can always have a hundred ‘yes, buts…’”

While they may be hard to achieve, Dr Hood is no stranger to them, given that he has already been involved in five paradigm changes during the course of his 45 year career:
1. Bringing engineering to biology that led to high-throughput biology;
2. The Human Genome Project;
3. Cross-disciplinary biology (Dr Hood created the first cross-disciplinary department)
4. Systems biology (he also created the first systems biology institute);
5. Systems medicine and the emergence of proactive P4 medicine

“We’re at a tipping point for systems biology, and we’re now influencing healthcare in interesting ways,” ​he said.

100K Wellness Project

The Institute of Systems Biology launched the 100K Wellness Project earlier this year, which is a Framingham-like digital-age study of wellness in 100,000 (100K Project) patients longitudinally for 20-30 years.

PLMI's 2014 Thought Leaders Consortium

The PLMI has made videos of the presentations from its Thought Leaders Consortium freely available on its website. Please click HERE​ to access the Education Portal.

The ISB researchers are measuring a multitude of factors, including blood for whole genome sequencing, blood chemistries, metabolomics, and organ-specific measures; urine for amino acid profile and measures of oxidative stress; saliva for adrenal stress markers; and stool for gut microbiome data.

“Starting with 100,000 well people they will either remain well (or improve their wellness) or there are those who transition into disease,”​ explained Dr Hood. “We can use the data from those who remain well to create metrics for wellness in a quantitative manner.

The project has started with 100 pioneers (The Pioneer 100 Project​ – see image below), and will scale up to 1,000 next year, the following year to 10,000, and then up to the 100,000 participants, explained Dr Hood.

“The wellness industry in 10-15 years will far exceed in market capital the disease industry,”​ said Dr Hood, “and we’re creating the companies today that will be the Googles and Microsofts of that wellness industry.”

Pioneer 100 Source ISB
Source: Institute for Systems Biology

Related topics Research Personalized Nutrition

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