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What is Helix?
Helix is a personal genomics company with the mission of empowering people to improve their life through DNA analysis, interpretation and pro-active measures.
Founded July 15, 2015 and publicly announced on August 15, 2015, Helix currently has more than 150 full-time employees.
What's in this Guide?
- What is Helix?
- Helix Testing Options and Product Offerings
- How does Helix DNA work? What is Helix’s Sequencing Methodology?
- Helix’s DNA Submission Process
- Helix and Genetic Data Privacy
- How much does Helix's Genetic Testing Cost?
Disclaimer: Before You Read
It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.
Genetics is a quickly changing topic. Read More...
It is headquartered in San Carlos, California on the San Francisco Peninsula. The company also operates a CLIA- and CAP-accredited Next Generation Sequencing lab in San Diego and facilities in Denver, Colorado.
The company is backed by more than $100 million from Illumina, a global leader and the world’s largest producer of gene sequencing technology. Other backers also include Warburg Pincus, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Mayo Clinic.
Helix’s senior management team and scientific advisory board are comprised of some of the world’s foremost experts in technology and genomics. Each member serves an important role in upholding high scientific standards and serves as a strategic resource in the company’s ongoing mission of DNA discovery.
Through a proprietary technology called Exome+, Helix reads 22,000 protein-encoding genes in a person’s body, which are then used to compile the largest and richest data set available to consumers today.
Instead of a stand-alone company, Helix is an open platform that has partnered with more than 20 firms who are designing products that are pushing and expanding the boundaries of each individual person’s DNA analysis.
These partnerships include innovative fitness and nutrition app developers, emerging genomics companies, and established healthcare institutions who are interested in or already integrating DNA sequencing into their commercial offerings.
Helix’s initial partners included Admera Health, Azumio, DNAFit, Dot One, EverlyWell, Exploragen, Genome Medical, Insitome, Lose It!, National Geographic, Sema4, Vinome.
Since that time products have been launched from additional partners including Geisinger, HumanCode, Intelliseq, Invitae, Mayo Clinic, Precise.ly, and WellnessFX, among others.
Using new and groundbreaking technology called Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), Helix is able to use this form of DNA analysis to unlock more than one hundred times the data that other consumer genomic companies can offer. One sample is all that is required to unlock a lifetime of potential testing and analysis.
As a result, Helix and its partners offer consumers a variety of DNA products related to health, fitness, nutrition, family, ancestry and more.
Helix also offers customers access to independent genetic counseling before or after ordering any of their products through Genome Medical, a genetics medical practice with a telemedicine network of genetic counselors and physicians.
A Recent Broadening of Market Focus
In April 2019, Helix announced that it was broadening its market focus to include health systems, payers and researchers who are interested in sequencing large population cohorts.
The company will offer partners it’s population health solutions. These are a suite of sequencing products and services built around the Helix proprietary Exome+™ assay, packaged with its workflow, CLIA/CAP lab, return of results platform and data capabilities
The goal of the turnkey population health solutions shift is to enable institutions to quickly scale projects that engage communities and accelerate translational research and discovery,
Helix’s population health solutions have already seen success in partnership with Renown IHI as part of the Healthy Nevada program. Helix sequenced 40,000 Nevadans in record time, and the company’s consumer-facing engagement tools are key to helping expand to 250,000 Nevadans in the fastest-growing population health project in the world.
This has allowed Renown IHI to use the Helix data make an immediate health impact in the community through broad-scale clinical screening.
In the near future, Helix will collaborate to launch a similar program in Orlando, Florida with the goal of initially aiming to sequence 10,000 participants.
The goal is to show how genomics can be integrated into healthcare to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. Every participant will receive results for familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) screening, as well as genetic ancestry and wellness traits provided by Helix.
Helix Testing Options and Product Offerings
Helix is building a platform for DNA products instead of a single, standalone product. Working with a trusted group of partners, Helix can offer a wide range of products to a consumer.
This means that the consumer only needs to be sequenced once and this allows them to purchase many types of DNA-powered products from Helix partners without the need to be sequenced again.
Helix’s DNA Discovery Kit unlocks actionable insights on wellness, ancestry, continental ancestry and more. It is designed to jumpstart a consumer’s curiosity about their origins.
The Discovery Kit provides six details about a person and their Ancestry DNA. Those traits include Regional Ancestry (results are broken down into 26 regions within eight high-level groups: East Asia, Europe, Indigenous America, Arctic, Oceania, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa); Altitude Adaptation; Arctic adaptation; Inuit Adaptation; Lactose Intolerance; and Malaria Adaptation.
The Kit also provides information on a number of Wellness basics, providing insights into eight personal genetic traits, including: Body Mass Index; Calcium Levels; Gluten Tolerance; Vitamin D Levels; Alcohol Flush; Delayed Sleep; and Endurance vs. Power.
One Basic Test. Many Helix Partners
The Discovery kit provides all the necessary tools and directions people need to be sequenced by Helix. Once a person has been sequenced by Helix, they can purchase a number of other DNA products from Helix partners to provide additional DNA insights.
Partner product offerings currently include:
Geno 2.0 by National Geographic - Discover the migration paths that ancient ancestors followed and learn the details of ancestral makeup. It provides ancestry percentages on a map with accompanying stories revealing the anthropological story of a person’s ancestors, from where they lived to how they migrated.
National Geographic uses samples collected as part of the Genographic Project as references to determine which populations a person’s DNA most closely matches.
Regional Ancestry by Insitome - Discover ancestral origins and where your DNA falls among several specific regional ancestry clusters. From Europe, to Asia, to Africa, and beyond, consumers will discover the threads that make up their unique ancestry.
This product allows people to discover where DNA falls among more than two dozen regional ancestry clusters. Each story is overseen by Insitome founder and CEO Dr. Spencer Wells, a consumer genomics pioneer and former director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project.
Metabolism by Insitome – This helps people to find out if they are genetically adapted to be a Hunter or a Farmer. A person’s metabolism has been crafted by their ancestors’ dietary choices over the past 10,000 years.
This test reveals why a person has the traits—from lactose tolerance to fat synthesis to alcohol tolerance—they have today. This makes a great gift for the friend who’s curious about nutrition and loves history.
Results are based on the latest research, using data from both modern and ancient DNA samples. Reported traits are for entertainment purposes only and because the field of paleogenetics is improving rapidly, understanding some of the traits that are currently known may change as more research is completed.
Neanderthal by Insitome – This allows consumers to discover which unique traits may have been inherited from Neanderthal ancestors—such as muscle growth, high altitude adaptation, interpreting immune signals, pathogen recognition, viral immune response, skin color, and cognitive ability, and more—and why they matter today.
Consumers get an in-depth understanding of each Neanderthal trait they could have inherited. This drives interest because when modern humans migrated out of Africa, they encountered the Neanderthals and they interbred. This has produced several surprising and interesting genetic results.
GenePrism: Actionable Insights by PerkinElmer Genomics – This test allows people to learn more about their family by discovering risks for inherited cancers, heart disease, and other health conditions. Once risk factors have been identified, a person can take proactive steps for better health, including disease prevention, early detection, and genetic counseling.
Test results also include a printable clinical report that can be shared with a family doctor. About one out of every 33 people tested will learn they have an actionable genetic risk factor
Mayo Clinic GeneGuide™ by Mayo Clinic – This genetic test helps understand how genetics can affect a person’s health. Recipients get personalized insights, interactive tools and education to help explore the health information in their DNA, carrier screening, disease risk, family health history and more.
The GeneGuide Test includes:
• GJB2-related hearing loss
• Cystic fibrosis
• Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency
• Sickle cell disease
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Atrial fibrillation
• Coronary artery disease
• Venous thromboembolism
• Ibuprofen metabolism
• Omeprazole metabolism
• Pseudocholinesterase deficiency
• Malignant hyperthermia
• Alcohol flush reaction
• Atopic dermatitis
• Lactase persistence
• Health ancestry
• Breast Cancer Referral Screening Tool (not a genetic test)
• Lifestyle Risk Assessment
• Pedigree (build a family tree to document your family’s health history)
• 15 topics in four categories
• In-depth information about conditions
Prostate Cancer Genetic Risk Score by NorthShore University HealthSystem – This test provides a better understanding of the risk for developing prostate cancer and offers an opportunity to speak to a certified genetic counselor to learn more about this test. It is especially recommended for males of African American, East Asian, or Non-Hispanic White ethnic background who are interested in better understanding their prostate cancer risk.
Results include a genetic risk score (GRS), sometimes known as a polygenic score or polygenic risk score. The GRS uses multiple genetic markers to calculate the chances of having a certain trait relative to the general population.
CarrierCheck by Sema4 – A genetic screening test for people about to grow their family. Helps parents understand how their DNA may affect their family and their future children.
It screens for 67 conditions and gives tested individuals the opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor.
Inherited Cholesterol Test by Admera Health – This helps people determine if they are predisposed to having familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an inherited cause of extremely high “bad” cholesterol that can lead to premature cardiovascular disease. It is an especially useful tool for someone with a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, early heart attack, or stroke.
Alzheimer's ApoE by ADx Healthcare – Provides the potential for early awareness of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is an especially useful test for people with a family member who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, or anyone who wants to understand their personal risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors, so learning about genetic risk can help a person determine how aggressively to make lifestyle changes to reduce that risk.
Inherited Diabetes Test by Admera Health – This test identifies the gene that causes Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY). Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are known to be caused by a complex combination of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors.
Many genetic variations combine to play a small role in developing the disease. MODY is different. With MODY, a single genetic variation can cause the disease.
While MODY is often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, it can be diagnosed at any age. Up to 500,000 people in the United States may have MODY2, but because genetic testing for inherited diabetes is relatively new, many are unaware.
embodyDNA by Lose It! - This food traits and tracking test and app and genetic information come together to form a personalized weight loss plan. With embodyDNA, you’ll get more than just a report of your traits.
The DNA-based advice is broken down into simple and actionable recommendations that you can start implementing immediately. Users will learn why each food is suggested, the benefits of eating it, and easy ways to include it in a diet.
Food Sensitivity+ by EverlyWell – This test allows a person to learn about their food sensitivities to many of the foods in their diet and the impact that DNA may have on how foods interact and metabolize with their body. Food can also trigger an immune response that manifests itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, acne, eczema, dry and itchy skin, food intolerance, bloating after eating, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, joint pain, and migraines.
The results you receive from the DNA blood sample will include a rating class that indicates a body’s sensitivity levels to each food, which can be used as guidance for an elimination plan.
Heart Start by WellnessFX - Using markers in blood and DNA, Heart Start offers insights that can optimize your wellness and take control of your cardiovascular health. Results indicate a deeper level of access to a heart's health with a series of advanced diagnostics that reveal the state of a cardiovascular system in unprecedented detail.
The blood panel includes total lipid amounts, particle numbers, sizes, and patterns. Fatty acids are measured, and markers of inflammation are examined to determine the risk of clotting for a comprehensive assessment of cardiovascular health.
Metabolism+ by EverlyWell – This test allows users to check current hormone levels and better understand the genes that influence metabolism, also allowing a person to learn how they affect weight and energy. To use this product, you must be 18 or older and be a U.S. resident.
Not available for residents of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island.
MyTraits Sport for iOS by Intelliseq – Test takers will get results that allow them to bridge the gap between their fitness and DNA by discovering how genes affect traits like athletic ability, metabolism, BMI, endurance, power exercise, and more. Now you can personalize a workout routine to fit your genetic traits.
Fitness Buddy: All-Access Premium by Azumio – This allows users to find the most effective exercises and personalized workouts customized to their DNA. Available exclusively on iOS. Helps to determine if a person is better suited for endurance or power activities, and how genetics may predispose someone for being at a higher likelihood of sustaining certain types of injuries.
All-Access Premium products check genetic predisposition to food and nutrient tolerance, injury risk, and more to customize wellness recommendations.
Diet GENius by Re:Point – Helps users lose weight and improve nutrition based on genetic predispositions as well as food habits, providing personalized guidance along the way. Offers optimal diet recommendations based on genetics, eating habits, and lifestyle.
Designed for use with the Fitbit® platform to track everything in one place.
MySleepInsights by MyVytalics – Users will be able to understand more about their sleep habits and learn how DNA may contribute to how and when optimal sleep can take place. Also offers recommendations to help people wake up more rested and refreshed.
Can help to determine if a person is more inclined to wake up early or stay up late based on their DNA. Also provides insights related to the body’s response to alcohol, caffeine, and certain vitamins.
Breast Milk DHA+ by EverlyWell – Reveals how much DHA is in a mother’s breast milk and if genetics might affect the amount of DHA a baby receives. It is designed for women who are currently lactating or who will be lactating within 6 months and want to monitor their breast milk’s overall percentage of DHA.
Argus: All-Access Premium by Azumio - Achieve wellness goals with workout and diet plans customized to your DNA, and connect with others in the Argus community. Available exclusively on iOS. Argus tracks steps, calories, meals, hours of sleep, and more to motivate healthy behaviors in nutrition and fitness.
It’s even more intelligent with genetic insights that can affect daily habits and track improvements over the long haul. With each purchase, users get a year full of premium access to the diet and workout plans in the Argus, Calorie Mama, and Fitness Buddy apps available for iPhone, iPad, and the iPod touch.
Women’s Wellness by Helix - Women’s Wellness includes over 20 traits designed to help better understand what makes a woman unique and how DNA can play a role in well-being. Traits that are tracked include bone mineral density, resting heart rates, relative age at menopause, exercise impact on weight, freckling and more.
Nutrition insights also provides better eating habits while DNA analysis can also provide insights into sleep habits.
MyStrongBones by MyVytalics - Learn about the influence of DNA on both bones and joints, and how nutrition and lifestyle can affect them. MyStrongBones looks at 16 different positions in a person’s DNA to estimate the genetic contribution to bone strength.
Also provides information from certain genetic factors that may reflect the attributes of a person’s joints as well.
Helix also offers a variety of DNA gifts and accessories that allow a person to display their unique DNA results in several creative ways. Go here to see what’s offered.
How does Helix DNA work? What is Helix’s Sequencing Methodology?
The field of genomics is rapidly changing and one of the misconceptions in recent years is that there is only one way to sequence a person’s DNA.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
There are actually several ways that a person’s genomic sequence can be determined. Some methods are older than others, and some are quite new, a product of that rapidly changing race of genetic discovery.
Each offers a different amount of information about a person’s DNA, and the usefulness and quality that can be tapped from each of these methods can vary quite a bit.
A Quick Overview of Sequencing Methods
Targeted panels are the most simple and specific method that usually just looks at a few thousand of your genome’s roughly 3 billion base pairs. This type of test is usually used to determine a single piece of information about someone, such as if they are predisposed to certain types of cancer or not.
With such a narrow focus, the costs are generally very low for a targeted panel test.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is at the other end of the spectrum, and although it is somewhat misleading because you can’t get information about every base in your DNA, it does provide ways to include several carrier health risks. WGS is also very expensive.
A high-quality WGS test can run into the thousands of dollars, and the drawback here is that there may be no obvious use for the overwhelming majority of the DNA information you get in return.
To narrow things down, science has uncovered where a large number of the useful genetic information can be found, so the next step in sequencing has been to examine about 2% of DNA that has the most direct impact on phenotype.
Together, these regions are known as the exome, and getting it sequenced is called whole exome sequencing (WES). WES has the advantage of sequencing all of DNA that is most likely to influence an observable trait.
WES is not as expensive as WGS but can still be fairly expensive.
Costs can be reduced even more if you only focus on areas where there are common DNA differences in the population. This is an older technology that looks at about 650,000 sites in the genome and is known as a microarray.
It relies on something known as DNA hybridization, but it only identified whether a specific sequence of DNA is present or not. Microarray testing is very common.
If you have done an at-home genetic test in the past, there’s a good chance it was done using a microarray. But it is limited in what it can look at.
The Helix Difference
Helix has taken all of this existing technology and developed an assay known as Exome+. It is detailed, accurate and affordable.
Exome+ analyzes the whole exome where information about diseases is most likely to be found, as well as hundreds of thousands of other areas to provide added valuable insights.
It sequences the exome at a clinical grade, meaning it is a level of quality and accuracy appropriate for clinical use.
Exome+ is can be leveraged by a broad array of products that offer DNA-based insights, including health, ancestry, family planning and many others. It is specifically designed so that a person does not need to submit another DNA sample in the future.
In addition, Exome+ is designed to accelerate the pace of innovation in health and what researchers are able to learn about the human genome. For example, Helix’s collaboration with the Healthy Nevada Project is yielding results that researchers can combine with environmental data, lifestyle information, and health records to find new relationships between health and our DNA.
Helix’s DNA Submission Process
The submission process for Helix DNA testing is simple.
- Order a product from Helix and it will be shipped to you. The kit has everything you need to collect a saliva sample, including a prepaid box that you will send back to Helix.
- Once your sample arrives at the lab, your DNA will be sequenced, and the results will be stored and protected using rigorous security protocols. Typically, it takes between 4 to 8 weeks for the process to be completed.
- You will be notified of the results through an email, allowing you to start digging through the new insights you’ll gain from the results. Also, with your sequencing now in the Helix database, you will be able to access a wide variety of additionally insightful partner products. If you prefer, you can also order partner products at the same time you order your initial Helix DNA test.
Helix and Genetic Data Privacy
Helix places a high priority on the security and privacy of each person’s genetic information and expects the same level of accountability from all of its partner firms.
You can read Helix’s Terms of Service here
You can read Helix’s Platform Consent here.
For those people who do not want or need to do full due diligence, Helix also provides summary highlights of those documents on its website as follows:
You are in control of your privacy on the Helix platform. Our goal is to give you the information and tools needed to help you understand and manage how your information is protected, shared, and stored.
What to expect from Helix - You control how your information is used and shared. You manage your experience, who receives your information (and who doesn't), and what you learn from products available through the Helix.
What to expect from our partners - Our partners build the products on the Helix marketplace, but the information in your DNA is what powers your experience. To make sure that information is secure at all times, we expect each and every partner on the Helix platform to work securely, honestly, and transparently.
Privacy/Account and data security - We take the security of your information seriously. Whether we’re building new experiences or launching new products on the Helix Store, the security of your genetic and personal information is our first consideration.
Your DNA - Helix will collect, process, and store your DNA produced from a saliva sample. We will sequence your DNA using our Exome+ technology.
This process looks at approximately all genes that code for the proteins that do your body’s work, plus hundreds of thousands of other regions of interest that can power products. We do not perform whole genome sequencing today.
Want to know even more about how the Helix platform works? See our Helix Personal Genomics Platform White Paper and our Helix Copy Number Variations White Paper.
When you purchase a DNA product, you allow us to share only the portion of your genetic information that is needed to provide that product or service and improve it over time. You also allow us to share some basic details about you, like your age, sex, and contact information.
Helix research - Helix believes in the value of research to make people’s lives better. We may reach out to you to inform you of research opportunities.
All research is IRB-approved. That means it has been authorized by an institutional review board that oversees human research projects to ensure safety, privacy, and ethical standards are met. We hope these research endeavors will improve health and wellness for people everywhere.
Our standards - We set a high bar for ourselves and have rigorous standards we uphold. We also expect our partners to meet the standards that we established when it comes to privacy, security, control, and experience.
We review each and every product before they become available to our customers. First, we assess the risk of the potential product. Next, we test the products to help ensure our customers receive accurate insights about themselves.
The final step is called Scientific Evidence Evaluation, which evaluates the underlying scientific content and claims of each partner product. For more information, see the Principles for Helix Science Evaluation of Partner Products.
Partner policies - Each DNA product has its own risks, benefits, and limitations, as described in the policies for that DNA product. We encourage you to check out our partners’ policies before you purchase products from them.
At any point, you may contact the provider of a DNA product you have purchased to stop your service, remove access to your information, and request that the partner closes your account.
How much does Helix's Genetic Testing Cost?
The Helix DNA Discovery test kit costs $80. This cost is one-time only and pays for Exome+ sequencing done by Helix’s lab.
A consumer only needs to be sequenced once to be able to access a variety of other additional products.
Because Helix is a DNA genetic testing platform with many partners, costs for various partner tests will range from under $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on what a person decides to purchase.
Is genetic testing covered by insurance?
In many cases, health insurance plans will cover the costs of genetic testing, as long as it has been recommended by a person’s doctor. Keep in mind that different insurance providers have different policies about what is covered.
It is best to contact an insurance company prior to testing to ask about coverage.
Some people may choose to not have their insurance to pay for testing. This is because results of a genetic test may impact a person’s insurance coverage.
To maintain full privacy, some people opt to pay for genetic tests out-of-pocket. Privacy protection laws vary from state to state and this is another issue a person may want to look into before contacting their insurance company about coverage.
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