LunaDNA Wins Most Innovative New Product Award

LunaPBC Selected as a Winner for Connect’s 2019 Most Innovative New Product Awards

Today, LunaPBC announced that LunaDNA has been selected as a winner of Connect’s Most Innovative New Product Awards.

Connect, a premier nonprofit helping entrepreneurs with innovative startups in the technology and life sciences sectors, continues its thirty-two-year tradition of celebrating innovation leaders in the local San Diego community.

LunaDNA is a people-powered health data sharing platform for improving the participant engagement, efficiency, and velocity of research. LunaDNA members share genomic, personal, and health data; consent their de-identified data for use in aggregate for population-level research; and earn ownership shares in LunaDNA.

We are honored to have won such a prestigious award that recognizes local innovation and unites people who whole-heartedly and consistency support San Diego’s culture,” said LunaPBC’s President and Co-Founder Dawn Barry.

LunaPBC, the public benefit corporation managing LunaDNA, was awarded in the Life Science and Healthtech category at the annual Innovation Awards event held on Thursday, December 5th, at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. Winners were selected in the following seven categories: Big Data; Cleantech; Defense; Medical Device; Life Science and Healthtech; Smart City & Transportation, and Software.

For a complete list of winners and additional information, please visit the Connect’s website

About LunaPBC
LunaPBC was proudly founded in 2017 in San Diego, California by former Illumina executives and leaders in large-scale consumer platforms and economics. LunaDNA soft launched in December 2018 concurrent with SEC-qualification, thus making LunaDNA the world’s first company to offer shares of ownership in the organization to health data contributors.

About CONNECT
For more than 30 years, Connect has focused on supporting and elevating entrepreneurs in the San Diego region. The organization has a long history as a powerhouse of resources for innovators, including mentorship, education, and connection to capital. Connect serves entrepreneurs and startups throughout their growth journey, from early stage to capital raise, with a suite of curated programs and events aimed to help companies grow, gain access to capital, and scale. 

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.


Family Health History Thanksgiving talk

Family Health History Should Be Topic of Conversation This Thanksgiving

By Genevieve Lopez, Head of Digital Engagement at LunaPBC

As we prepare for the fast-approaching holiday that unites families together nationwide over food, drinks, and much-awaited family connection, take advantage of the valuable opportunities while surrounded by your closest relatives – loved-ones that could be helpful in predicting and providing you identifiers of your future health. Every family has their own unique traditions and understanding family health history should be something to add to the Thanksgiving itinerary.

Why Health History Is Important

There’s a reason why your primary care physician asks about your family history every year. It’s important. Your family members’ health — including that of your children, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews — can reveal a wealth of information that may directly impact you. A pattern with relatives’ health history can determine conditions that run in the family and furthermore, indicate increased risks you may have for developing a particular disease.

Although identifying these patterns do not predict your pre-disposition in developing the same condition, understanding your potential risks can prepare you to take the necessary steps to reduce its development later in life. For instance, if your grandmother passed away from breast cancer and your aunt is a breast cancer survivor, there’s a higher chance that you may have inherited BRCA-1 or BRCA-2, breast cancer genes. Additionally, family health history goes beyond hereditary genetic lineage. It also encompasses eating habits, daily activities, and environmental factors that impact health and well-being. Having this information equips you with important insight to share with your primary care physician, enables you to undergo appropriate tests and interventions, and empowers you to proactively take charge of your well-being. Especially in the case of health history, education is truly life-changing.

How to Initiate the Conversation 

So how does one become fully informed about their family health history? Initiate conversation, especially when the opportunity arises. The information you already have about your family’s health conditions may have been derived from events that dramatically impacted your life, like the passing of a grandparent or the diagnosis of a sibling.  But what about the underlying symptoms that aren’t typically discussed or identified, like a family member’s chronic pain or dramatic weight loss. Identifying patterns in symptoms like these across generations can help forecast greater health challenges that need immediate professional attention.

Family Health History Checklist 

In between turkey dinner and pumpkin pie dessert, mark-off the following checklist to ensure you’re learning as much as possible about your family health history and ultimately, yours.

Ask Questions

Considering how much your health impacts others, sharing your personal experiences and hearing others may save a life. Here are a few questions to consider asking your relatives:

  • How has your health and wellness been this year?
  • Are you experiencing any conditions or diseases you’re comfortable sharing?
  • Who in the family has also experienced similar symptoms, conditions, or diseases? 
  • What are your eating habits, activity habits, etc.?
  • What are some things you do on a regular basis to stay healthy? 

Record Information

It’s important to know your family health history and especially important to ensure you don’t forget it. Record what you learned during these conversations and store in a secure location. This can be anything from a simple word document to a detailed health family tree. The more details you can provide about your family health history, the better you can identify patterns regarding health symptoms, conditions, or diseases you may be affected by.

Share Information

During your next doctor’s visit, share the information you learned during the holidays and update your family health history paperwork or database. Based on the information you collected, you and your doctor can create a healthy plan for you to roll into the new year with health, wellness, and quality of life top of mind. 

Additionally, take a health survey on LunaDNA’s secure and private platform and earn ownership shares for sharing your family health history data to research. There’s nothing more rewarding than closing out the year sharing value to benefit the greater good of humanity and joining a health movement that powers medical breakthroughs.

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

LunaDNA Team Movember

How Health Movements Build Awareness for Social Good

By James White, VP Engagement and Experience

As a 20+ year veteran in advertising, it’s no easy feat to show attribution between awareness, engagement and action — whether in the act of purchase, donation or advocacy. But something as simple as hair is capable of cutting through the BS, sparking a conversation, and creating a dialogue that’s become a bastion of hope for many deadly diseases.

Too often people are falsely confident about their health history or outcomes. Men, in particular, are hesitant to undergo predictive or preventive measures that are not commonly talked about — like taking a DNA test or getting an annual check up — to identify baseline biomarkers or health indications. As a result, fathers, partners, brothers and friends are experiencing health crises, some even life-threatening.

In the last decade, there has been a rise in consumer products and services that have brought more attention to the health challenges men face. For Hims, a San Francisco-based personal care brand for men, highlights previously-taboo issues men face — like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and hair loss — and empowers men to feel comfortable about seeking treatment. The brand has been able to tap into the male psyche of anonymity + awareness = action. And this is not the only successful model.

For Hims Home Page
For Hims Home Page

Global Mo-vements for the Greater Good of Men

Another empowering health movement has broken barriers for men’s health challenges by reintroducing the power of hair. Gentlemen, that normally are clean shaven are taking great pride to grow, groom and coiffure their moustaches and beards. This phenomenon has created a global “mo-vement” of hairy men and brave associates worldwide striving to encourage hair growth in return for conversation and action.

Movember is an annual event that invites participants to grow their moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness about men’s health issues, such as anxiety, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. Similarly, No-Shave November invites participants to forgo shaving and grooming beyond their moustaches to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness.

According to the US Movember.com, 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the US. Research studies and papers have shown that threshold changes in PSA levels can help identify early onset prostate cancer and lead to interventions and treatments. And events like Movember and No-Shave have brought public awareness to these facts and figures.

LunaDNA No-Shave November Team 2019
The LunaPBC No-Shave November 2019 Team from top left to bottom right: Genevieve Lopez, Mike Fennessy, Kevin Brennan, James White, Alex Leonidova,Tommy Rodriguez, Sanjay John, David Latuno.

How Action Leads To Cure

The success of Movember goes beyond evoking important conversation and building awareness. The health movement has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects across more than 20 countries. It’s funded the research and medical studies that have discovered the genetic “fingerprint” within men’s prostate cancer cells which will help build a more tailored treatment plan and eliminate over-treatment and side effects.

Another example is a San Diego non-profit, Padres Pedal, a community of cancer fighters, including survivors, families, children, doctors and researchers, who participate in a one-day cycling, running, and stationary bike event to raise funds for local cancer research. This year almost 3,000 people, including me and the LunaDNA team, are participating and have collectively raised ~$2M dollars to help fight for a world without cancer.

Padres Pedal the Cause 2019
Padres Pedal the Cause 2019

In just six years, Padres Pedal the Cause has donated more than $10 million dollars to fund collaborative discovery research at the best cancer institutions in San Diego. Scientists at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, and Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have initiated 48 translational cancer research projects and 5 clinical trials for all types of cancers, including pancreatic, breast, brain, pediatric, skin, lung, colorectal, gastrointestinal, ovarian, and endometrial.

If you cannot actively participate in the event, you can also donate to those who are, like me and the LunaDNA team, riding countless miles on Saturday, November 16.

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

UVMHN LunaDNA

University of Vermont Health Network begins offering Genomic DNA Testing

Pilot project holds promise for helping inform Vermonters’ health care decisions

BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont Health Network has begun a pilot project to offer Genomic DNA Testing to patients as part of their clinical care. The pilot program is the beginning of an effort to increase the integration of genetic disease risks into routine medical care, which holds promise for providing Vermonters with valuable information to guide their health decisions.

Our overall health and longevity are determined about 30 percent by genetics,” said Debra Leonard, MD, PhD, Chair, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “But until now, most of our clinical health care decisions have been made without understanding the differences in each individual’s DNA that could help guide those decisions.”

Patients who choose to get the Genomic DNA Test can learn about differences in their DNA that make certain diseases more likely, such as cancer and heart disease. Knowing these genetically-determined disease risks may help patients and health care providers adjust their care to keep people as healthy as possible. While genetic testing to identify the cause of a patient’s symptoms to reach a diagnosis is now common in health care, proactive genomic testing to identify health risks across a population is just beginning to be considered, and most projects are being done only in the research setting.

The UVM Health Network is partnering with Invitae and LunaPBC on the pilot project. Invitae will provide information for 147 genes that are well-established indicators of increased risk for certain diseases for which clinical treatment guidelines are established. The test also screens for carrier status for other diseases. Follow-up testing for family members will be provided when appropriate.

Nearly 1 in 6 healthy individuals exhibits a genetic variant for which instituting or altering medical management is warranted,” said Robert Nussbaum, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Invitae. “Genetic screening like the Genomic DNA Test in a population health setting can help identify these risk factors so clinicians can better align disease management and prevention strategies for each patient.”

The UVM Health Network is offering the Genomic DNA Test as part of clinical care, but health and genomic data can also help researchers learn more about health and disease. Patients who get the test can consent to securely share their data with researchers through LunaDNA, partner LunaPBC’s sharing platform. LunaDNA provides patients with the opportunity to share their genomic and electronic health record information to advance health and disease management research. In the future, patients will also be able to share lifestyle, environment, and nutrition data. Shared data is de-identified and aggregated during studies to protect the privacy of each patient while being used to answer important medical research questions.

Vermonters who choose to share their genomic data for research will play a leading role in the advancement of precision medicine,” said Dawn Barry, LunaPBC President and Co-founder. “This effort puts patients first to create a virtuous cycle for research that doesn’t sacrifice patients’ control or privacy. We are proud to bring our values as a public benefit corporation and community-owned platform to this partnership.”

Dr. Leonard spoke about the project, the UVM Health Network’s partnership with LunaPBC and Invitae, and the role of genomics in population health on Monday at the Santa Fe Foundation’s Clinical Lab 2.0 Workshop in Chicago, a national conference at which pathologists and healthcare leaders from across the country share ways that pathology can be integral to improving population health.

Vermont and other states are moving away from ‘fee-for-service’ health care and toward a system that emphasizes prevention, keeping people healthy and treating illness at its earliest stages,” Dr. Leonard said. “Integrating genetic risks into clinical care will help patients and providers in their decision-making.”

The pilot project began on Friday, November 1, when the first patient agreed to have the test. During the pilot stage of the project over the next year, the Genomic DNA Test will be offered to approximately 1,000 patients over the next year who: are at least 18 years old; receive their primary care from a participating UVM Health Network Family Medicine provider; are not currently pregnant or the partner of someone who is currently pregnant; and are part of the OneCare Vermont Accountable Care Organization (ACO), a care coordination and quality improvement organization.

Patients do not have to pay for the test or for discussions with the UVM Health Network’s Genomic Medicine Resource Center’s genetic counselors before and after testing. The test uses a small amount of blood, and focuses on the parts of a patient’s DNA that most affect health and health care. Results will go into each patient’s medical record, protected like all medical information, and available to the patient and all of their health care providers.

Much work has gone into getting ready to start this project and it has taken an entire team,” Dr. Leonard said. “Providers from Family Medicine, Cardiology, the Familial Cancer Program, Medical Genetics and Pathology, patient and family advisors, ethics and regulatory compliance leaders, Planning, Finance and OneCare Vermont have all worked together to get us across the start line for this initiative.”

Patients should be aware that the UVM Health Network will never call them on the phone to ask them to get this test. Testing is arranged through a patient’s primary health care provider and only if the patient agrees to have the test.

About The University of Vermont Health Network
The University of Vermont Health Network is an academic health system comprised of six affiliate hospitals, a multi-specialty medical group, and a home health agency. We serve the residents of Vermont and northern New York with a shared mission: working together, we improve people’s lives. Our 4,000 health care professionals are driven to provide high-quality, cost-efficient care as close to home as possible. Strengthened by our academic connection to the University of Vermont, each of our hospitals remains committed to its local community by providing compassionate, personal care shaped by the latest medical advances and delivered by highly skilled experts.

About Invitae
Invitae Corporation (NYSE: NVTA) is a leading genetics company, whose mission is to bring comprehensive genetic information into mainstream medicine to improve healthcare for billions of people. Invitae’s goal is to aggregate the world’s genetic tests into a single service with higher quality, faster turnaround time, and lower prices. For more information, visit the company’s website at invitae.com.

About LunaPBC
Public Benefit Corporation, LunaPBC, is a private investor-owned company founded in November 2017. It is chartered to drive societal value through the aggregation and organization of genomic and health data at a scale and diversity rich enough to solve today’s greatest health challenges. LunaPBC founded LunaDNA, the first people-powered, community-owned data sharing platform. The LunaPBC team, investors, and advisors are renowned in the patient-advocacy, health, and science fields, including several former chief executives of Illumina, industry academics, and financial executives. For more information visit www.lunadna.com.

How Precision Medicine is Changing Clinical Trial Recruitment

How Precision Medicine is Changing Clinical Trial Recruitment

By Elizabeth Whittington, LunaDNA Contributor

When President Barack Obama introduced “precision medicine” in his 2015 State of the Union, many in the medical field were already familiar with the term. But for the general public, the Precision Medicine Initiative sparked a new way of thinking about disease treatment and prevention; one that takes into account an individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle.

In just a few years, precision medicine has changed not only the way we treat and prevent diseases, it has also changed the way research scientists think about drug development and clinical trials. By diving into the causes of certain diseases, scientists have found that many are multifactorial. A one-size-fits-all treatment approach rarely works. The age of blockbuster drugs has been replaced with targeted therapies. And clinical trials that test these new types of treatments are getting an overhaul too.

The precision problem in clinical trial recruitment

The traditional clinical trial process follows a lengthy and expensive path, from preclinical laboratory work to increasingly larger clinical trial phases that may study treatment safety, dosage, and effectiveness. But as common diseases are stratified into more narrow subpopulations, that model is becoming unrealistic.

Clinical trial participation in the U.S. has traditionally been very low. Current figures estimate that less than 5 percent of cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. So it’s not surprising that about 40 percent of cancer clinical trials are believed to close before completion merely because researchers cannot accrue enough participants.

In the age of precision medicine, clinical trial participants must meet a precise list of requirements, such as having a certain subtype of disease or a specific genetic mutation.

To overcome these challenges, the research field is now looking at clinical trial recruitment proactively. Instead of recruiting for patients after a lengthy study design, researchers are directly asking the public to provide their health data as clinical trials roll out.

Partnering with advocacy groups

It’s a strategy Sharon Terry is already very familiar with. In the 1990s, when her two children were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that doctors knew little about, she conducted her own research to discover the genetic cause, and subsequently developed diagnostic testing, clinical trials, and a biorepository to hold biological samples.

Today some organizations, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, maintain biorepositories, in which scientists can query the data to find new discoveries. These nonprofits may also allow researchers to recruit clinical trial participants from their communities with approval.

“This allows the individuals themselves to raise their hands to be involved in research,” says Terry, who now heads Genetic Alliance, an advocacy organization that hosts patient communities and a biobank to aid in medical research.

Clinical trial recruitment creativity

Pharmaceutical companies, study investigators, and medical research institutions are now reaching out to nonprofit and advocacy organizations in unique ways to recruit for highly specialized clinical trials.

“I think the common conditions have the opportunity to learn a lot from us rare diseases because we’ve always dealt with small populations,” Terry says, especially when a non-profit group is filled with empowered patients who want to advance medical research.

Nonprofit organizations were founded on the goals of providing resources and emotional support, and raising awareness of a particular disease to the general public, especially rare diseases. Many quickly evolved into activism, lobbying, and research funding. The next evolution is having a direct impact in medical research through education on precision medicine, research funding, and recruiting for clinical trials.

Earlier this year, LunaDNA announced a partnership with the Genetic Alliance. By linking the participant and patient communities of the Genetic Alliance to LunaDNA’s research platform, individuals will have more resources to share their health data for medical research and to understand their options for clinical trials.

Industry-advocacy partnerships will continue to evolve, but it may not be from necessity, but from a shared mission.

“[They] say that finding people for clinical trials is like looking for a needle in the haystack,” Terry describes. “But basically, no, it’s not. The haystack is made out of needles.

“In this case, every single one of us is useful to a clinical trial somewhere. My goal and the goal of LunaDNA is to bring as many people as possible into the system, and then they’re ready for a clinical trial.”

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.