Is knowledge power when it comes to your health? First-of-its-kind Florida DNA study may unlock answers

If you knew you carried genes that could increase your risk of an early heart attack, would you change the way you eat? Exercise more? Stop putting off your annual checkups?

AdventHealth researchers are hoping to find out how genomics impacts personal health decisions with a first-of-its-kind DNA study in Florida — “WholeMe” — that will empower consumers with potential life-saving information about their heart health.

“We believe personalized medicine that focuses on the whole person is superior health care,” said Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “Nothing is more personal than your DNA. If we’re going to fulfill our promise to consumers to care for them as a whole person, with an emphasis on wellness, genomics must play a role. WholeMe is an exciting first step for AdventHealth and we’re thrilled to bring this project with Helix to Florida.”

The importance of genomics in the future of medicine was highlighted by AdventHealth during the announcement of its rebrand last summer. Researchers will learn from the WholeMe study how genomics can be successfully integrated into health care to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases.

The study is made possible through a new partnership between AdventHealth and California-based personal genomics company Helix.

Ten-thousand people will have the opportunity to join WholeMe, in which Helix will sequence their DNA. Every participant will be screened for the genes linked to familial hypercholesterolemia, known as “FH.” FH is a life-threatening genetic condition that causes high cholesterol. If left untreated, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, including a heart attack, even in young adults.

Helix uses proprietary next-generation sequencing technology, called Exome+. The sequencing enables health systems and research institutions to deliver scalable and impactful genomic services to the communities they serve. This will drive a higher standard of care. The company also created the first marketplace for DNA-powered products where people can explore diverse and uniquely personalized products developed by high-quality partners.

Helix is also a partner in the Healthy Nevada Project — a study similar to WholeMe. To date, 115 Healthy Nevada participants learned of their FH risk through genomic screening. More than 90% of them would not have been diagnosed under current medical practice.

“We are excited to leverage our end-to-end solution for large-scale population health in support of AdventHealth’s WholeMe Program,” said Justin Kao, co-founder and senior vice president of Business Development and Partnerships of Helix. “By combining clinical screening for actionable disease, long-term research driven by the breadth and depth of our Exome+ assay and world-class consumer engagement tools that are proven to stimulate rapid enrollment, we believe that Helix and AdventHealth are poised to make a significant impact on precision medicine in Florida.”    

AdventHealth researchers are slated to begin recruiting for WholeMe in July. More details around participation will be shared then. Participants will also learn about other traits that may impact their health such as lactose and gluten tolerance, magnesium and calcium levels.

While the study is open to all adults who live in Florida, the enrollment sites will be based in the Orlando area. Researchers will check in with participants six months after they receive their DNA results. There is no cost to join the study.

Earlier this year, AdventHealth Orlando began laying the foundation for its comprehensive genomics program — AdventHealth Genomics & Personalized Health — which will ultimately provide comprehensive genomics testing, analysis, interpretation and genetic counseling services.

The genomics initiatives are made possible by the generous support of community donors, including the AdventHealth Foundation and the Ginsburg Family Foundation. 

To learn more about WholeMe visit


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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