The holy grail of health care — precision medicine — will be arriving soon at your doctor’s office, nearby medical center, or your place of work. A life sciences company in Rochester Hills has developed a series of simple-to-use, noninvasive exams that can gauge just how healthy you truly are. The tests will determine whether metabolic conditions exist that may leave you vulnerable to cancer, cardiac problems, diabetes, and dozens of other diseases.
“The healthier the individual, the less likely they can fall victim to any illnesses,” says Denis Callewaert, founder and chief science officer of Wellness Indicators, a biomed firm. “Existing medical diagnostic tests look for illness and disease. We want people to know just how healthy they are,” adds Callewaert, who has a doctorate in chemistry. “Wellness is not the absence of disease. Just like you can be slightly ill or very ill, you can also be just so-so healthy or operating at peak metabolic efficiency. If you’re in top operating efficiency, you’ll lead a healthier, longer life. Until now, there weren’t any medical tests to measure wellness.”
Wellness Indicators has developed a series of examinations, beginning with a simple urine sample for primary screening. The test actually contains five different assessments on a dipstick, which together provide a glimpse of an individual’s metabolic function — just how well they’re handling stress, oxidative damage, and inflammation. The primary screen is inexpensive and provides a quick and simple assessment of general health. If there’s any hint of a problem, an additional screening is recommended.
The second series of tests are a bit more complex — there are four different test panels, each with a much more precise focus: cardiovascular risk, cancer risk, diabetes risk, and the risk for potentially devastating autoimmune diseases such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s. The test panels identify conditions within the body that are favorable for the onset of specific illnesses. If the results indicate there could be a problem, it’s likely very early in the disease process. In most cases, a straightforward and effective intervention can prevent more serious health issues later.
Wellness Indicators characterizes its tests as early warning systems, giving individuals, their doctors, wellness consultants, employers, and insurers the time and incentives to make changes to a person’s diet, supplements, nutraceuticals (nutrition), and lifestyle activities.
“The goal of these tests is not to diagnose disease, but to look for conditions that are favorable to the onset of disease. Those conditions don’t exist in a healthy metabolism. The healthier you are, the more resistant you are to a wide range of diseases,” says Callewaert, professor emeritus at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, where he founded and served as executive director of the Center for Biomedical Research for nearly 20 years.
Americans are especially susceptible to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, which are largely preventable through changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise. Currently, there are no simple, inexpensive tests to assess an individual’s state of health. And there’s no easy way to measure whether or not changes in diet, supplements, or activities are making a difference in their well-being.
“You can measurably improve your metabolic scores by altering something in your diet, such as the amount of omega-3 taken daily, or adding another exercise session to your weekly routine. If you quit smoking, for instance, you can expect to see a big change in your metabolic profile in a relatively short time frame,” Callewaert says. “Once you have the report, your doctor can tell you what the information means, and what can be done about it.”
Wellness Indicators will launch its Phase One screening test by year’s end. The company will market the test to employers and insurers, so that a baseline of wellness can be established for every insured worker. Once a baseline is set, employers can work with insurers to improve a worker’s score with training, education, or incentives. This can help lower out-of-pocket costs for employees and help curb the rise in medical insurance premiums.
The Phase Two test, which screens for pre-conditions of cardiovascular disease, cancer risk, autoimmune disease, and diabetes, will be introduced in fall 2011. Both tests feature sophisticated analytics and reporting functions that provide a roadmap to better-personalized health care. Callewaert says the kits will retail for around $30, and will be widely distributed.
The company recently hired Jeff Zavada as its CEO. Most recently, Zavada served as chief sales officer at Walgreens; previously, he was executive vice president of sales for United Health Care, a large health insurer. Members of the Wellness Indicators business advisory council include Florine Mark, chairman, CEO, and president of The WW Group Inc. in Farmington Hills; her son, Dr. Richard Mark; and former Domino’s Pizza CFO Harry Silverman.
“I’m very encouraged by the potential for Wellness Indicators to improve people’s lives, while at the same time reducing overall health care costs,” says Florine Mark, director of the council. “Imagine being able to personalize your diet and your supplements to get the best possible results for you — and you’re in charge. It’s a game-changer.”