Viome raises millions for wellness monitoring

Naveen Jain

Viome CEO Naveen Jain shows how a stool sample would be placed into a kit for an analysis of gut microbes. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Viome, the wellness monitoring service founded by Seattle-area tech entrepreneur Naveen Jain, has raised $15 million this month in an investment round, according to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The equity sale boosts the first commercial venture brought to life by Jain’s BlueDot innovation factory.

Jain deferred comment on the details of the investment today, but in an April interview, he said Viome was just the kind of technological moonshot BlueDot was designed to foster.

“Our moonshot here is, can we create a world where chronic illness becomes a matter of choice?” he said at the time.

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Futurists gather in Seattle to see what’s ahead

Image: Glen Hiemstra, Futurist

Glen Hiemstra, the founder of Futurist.com, basks in the red glow of a corridor at the Seattle Public Library during the Association of Professional Futurists’ gathering. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Professional futurists are gathering in Seattle, for the second time in 15 years. But don’t expect to recognize them by their business cards.

Many modern-day futurists tend to call themselves something else – for example, foresight specialist, which is Jonelle Simunich’s title at Arup, an engineering and consulting firm based in San Francisco.

“I tell people I’m a futurist, and they say, ‘So, what, you’re like a psychic?’” Simunich told GeekWire today during the 15th-anniversary gathering of the Association of Professional Futurists.

The annual gathering is structured as a series of seminars for about 40 futurists, rather than your typical trade convention. The group that became APF had its first gathering in Seattle in 2002. “It didn’t even have a name yet,” Cindy Frewen, who chairs the association’s board.

This year marks “the first time we have ever been in the same place twice,” Frewen told attendees at the Seattle Central Library.

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Elon Musk: Falcon Heavy lifts off in November

SpaceX’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, says he’s aiming to launch the first test flight of his company’s Falcon Heavy rocket in November from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

He issued the latest schedule today in a six-word posting to Instagram:

Falcon Heavy maiden launch this November

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

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Got eclipse glasses? Here’s where to go

Eclipse glasses

GeekWire’s Cara Kuhlman, Clare McGrane and Chelsey Ballarte give their eclipse glasses a test drive. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

All of the continental United States and Canada will witness a solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but you’ll need eye protection to see the partial phase safely. This may be the event that turns solar-filter glasses into a mass-market fashion statement.

If you think regular sunglasses, compact discs or exposed photographic film will do the trick, think again. (Besides, who has film lying around anymore?) As long as even a sliver of the sun’s disk is uncovered, virtually the only safe way to see the spectacle directly is through special spectacles.

Fortunately, there should be plenty of solar-viewing glasses to go around. The Robert D. and Jessie L. Stinnett Trust is facilitating distribution of glasses from American Paper Optics through the 2017solar.com website: You can order four pairs of glasses online for $5, but the offer ends on Aug. 1.

Astronomers Without Borders and other nonprofit groups are shipping glasses as well. Plenty of other online outlets sell the glasses (as well as solar filters for cameras, binoculars and telescopes), but whatever you do, make sure your shipment arrives before Aug. 21.

Libraries across the country, including Seattle Public Library, are distributing free eclipse glasses to all comers.

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Oregon team edits genes in human embryos

Embryo and pipette

A pipette injects CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools into a mouse embryo. Oregon researchers have reportedly conducted similar experiments using human embryos. (University of Utah Health Sciences Photo)

Chinese researchers crossed a threshold last year when they used CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools to modify human embryos, and now Oregon researchers have reportedly crossed it as well.

report in MIT Technology Review suggests that the team at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland improved upon the results from China by modifying embryos earlier in their development.

OHSU confirmed that a study was in the works, but said there was nothing more to share at this time.

“Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal,” OHSU spokesman Erik Robinson said in an email to GeekWire.

Genetic experiments with embryos are controversial because they could involve changing the human genetic code in ways that can be passed along to a person’s progeny. That raises the prospect of creating subspecies of genetically modified humans with enhanced traits.

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Cyrus Biotech raises $8M for protein toolkit

Cyrus Bench on laptop

Cyrus Bench is a software platform for protein engineering. (Cyrus Biotech Photo)

Cyrus Biotechnology is getting an $8 million infusion for its cloud-based protein modeling and design toolkit, thanks to a Series A financing round.

The investment round was led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from OrbiMed AdvisorsSpringRock Ventures, the W Fund and individual investors, the Seattle-based venture said today in a news release.

Cyrus Biotech’s primary product, Cyrus Bench, is a software package based on Rosetta, a protein-modeling platform that was created at the University of Washington. Rosetta lets researchers twist and turn virtual models of protein molecules to create novel configurations. (It’s even spawned a video game for citizen scientists called Foldit and a screensaver called Rosetta@Home.)

Protein-folding has been compared to solving puzzles, or building molecular-scale keys for cellular locks. A protein molecule with the right shape could block a virus from invading a cell, or unlock a therapy for disease.

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Tiny probes get tested for interstellar mission

Yuri Milner and Sprite

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner holds a “Sprite” mini-probe like the ones that are being tested in low Earth orbit. (Breakthrough Starshot via YouTube / SciNews)

Breakthrough Starshot says it’s been testing prototype interstellar spacecraft no bigger than postage stamps in orbit for the past month, and they seem to be working just fine.

Six of the 1.4-inch-square circuit boards, dubbed “Sprites,” were launched into low Earth orbit on June 23 as tiny piggyback payloads on two nanosatellites. Those educational satellites, Max Valier Sat and Venta 1, were developed with the aid of German-based OHB System and launched by an Indian PSLV rocket. (Seattle-based Spaceflight played a role in launch logistics.)

In a statement issued today, Breakthrough Starshot said the Sprites are still attached to the nanosatellites and are “performing as designed.” The Sprite radio communication system is in contact with ground stations in California and New York, as well as with amateur radio enthusiasts around the world.

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