Tag Archives: Genomera

Genetics Guides on Genomera


Along with Leila Jamal and Aaron Vollrath, I recently joined Genomera (now defunct) as a group guide in the genetics discussion group. Still in beta, Genomera enables personal health collaboration by providing a platform for crowdsourced health studies.

Genomera Interview

Thomas Pickard serves as an advisor to DIYgenomics, Althea Health, and the Coleman Research Group. He is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at PACSGEAR, a company that integrates medical images with electronic health records. Previously, Thomas held roles at Emageon, eMed Technologies, and Thinking Machines.

  1. Tell us about your adventures in genetics.

    In the early 90’s, I learned a little about bioinformatics at MasPar, a company that sold supercomputers for research. The ‘ah ha’ moment came from reading George Church’s article about the Personal Genome Project in Scientific American, which advocated getting your genome sequenced as a “lifestyle choice” (!) Shortly afterwards, I began work on an MBA and finished research on the $1000 genome in 2009. Since then, I’ve been immersed in genomics and its implications for personalized medicine.

  2. Has genetic information shaped your life in any way? How do you foresee it affecting our lives in the next 5 years?

    On Genomera, a useful side-effect from the Restless Legs Syndrome and Niacin study was learning that my ferritin level was extremely low, which appears to have a genetic basis. Iron supplementation has made a difference, but more importantly, Genomera has allowed me to ask better questions. I have learned more about RLS in the past few months than I have in the past 20 years living with the disease. Over the next five years, we’ll all be able to ask better questions through the mining of genomic information.

  3. What studies would you like to see at Genomera?

    Genomera is unique because participants can elect to share genomic information as part of a study. As Genomera expands, I would like to see studies that analyze results and genetic variants across studies—a true game changer for personal health and wellness.

Self-Tracking Presentation at Quantified Self Meetup in San Francisco

I presented results from my self-tracking study at the Quantified Self San Francisco meetup at WellnessFX in San Francisco.


By participating in this a crowd-sourced study on Genomera (now defunct), I tested niacin supplementation as a potential treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).


The protocol is based on ramping up from 0 mg to 1000 mg of niacin over one month. I had to taper off my current medication that I have taken for 10 years, clonazepam, for a week and then take nothing for a control week.


I recorded some sliding scale measurements of RLS sensation, leg jerks, sleep, etc. in a spreadsheet (above), and worked with Genomera to create an “instrument,” a web page for data entry. I used Tonic to remind me to take niacin with meals, and Fitbit to record my sleep.


Two weeks after taking niacin (500 mg/day), I did not see any improvement so I stopped taking niacin. Afterwards, I saw my doctor and we had a great discussion about the genetic factors that contribute to the disease. He also suggested that I check my ferritin level, since some people with RLS have this hidden iron deficiency. I learned that my ferritin level is very low, so I am starting an iron supplement. With luck, I will be able to report some improvement in my RLS in a future post.

Video  Slides