Big QuestionsOur work related to complex challenges.

The Challenge

Collaborate with the startup Helix to rethink the way people use their genetic data.


Helix raised $100 million in funding and achieved product-market fit for its innovation.


Helix's market size and segmentation, as well as key consumer insights and brand strategy

Accessing our genetic code is as easy as spitting in a tube, but how can we benefit from all that DNA data? IDEO surveyed more than 1,000 Americans about the gene sequencing services they want. "Give me things I can act on,” one respondent said. “Give me advice, action plans, apps, and tools. Information is just air until I can put it to use." As it turns out, tools that can translate our genetic information into better life choices—to improve our health, chart our family history, or even find an effective exercise routine—are hard to come by.

Inspired to organize and apply the wealth of genetic data in all of us, Helix envisioned the first online platform for products that offer insights based on a person’s unique DNA sequence. The startup’s founders approached IDEO to help them get to launch by identifying their future market segments and designing their brand and product offering.

We could’ve worked with a traditional management consulting firm, but what IDEO gave us was so much more—an integrated market and brand strategy paired with deep user insights.


Helix sequences all 22,000 of your genes from one saliva sample—sent in a mail-in kit—and hosts a marketplace of products developed by trusted brands and innovative developers that explore your health, ancestry, entertainment, family, fitness, and nutrition. Similar to the Apple app store, Helix lets you pay individually for the products you want and is a platform for developers to launch new offerings over time. After you've provided a DNA sample once, every product in the Helix store is made available to you on-demand. So, as new products are launched and new discoveries are made in the field of genomics, the data from your original sample is all you’ll need to keep exploring your personal genetic insights.

Submitting your saliva sample through Helix's mail-in kit unlocks access to a personalized report, as well as dozens of products that offer DNA-based insights.

IDEO engaged a range of users, including early adopters of at-home genetic tests and “quantified self” enthusiasts, and surveyed potential Helix customers across the country. That qualitative and quantitative research validated Helix’s “app store” business model and provided key insights into the products people were most interested in.

Through the partnership, Helix uncovered what users need most from a genomics company:

  • to prioritize the accuracy and privacy of DNA test results

  • to encourage a sense of discovery and exploration of our genes

  • to celebrate each individual’s unique qualities

A team of ethnographers, data scientists, and designers at IDEO helped direct the startup’s brand approach (including its name, Helix) and crafted a blueprint for how the company connects with customers and presents its product. The Helix store launched in July 2017.

Our DNA used to be a mystery—something we guessed at by observing our parents. Now, easy access to our genetic code—and the tools to truly understand it—arrives on our doorstep.

Create a personalized meal plan, learn about your metabolism, and more with products in the Nutrition category of the Helix store.

Health and Wellness
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