Nowadays, everyone is fixated on their spit. Or, more specifically, the DNA inside of their spit. The genomic testing services provided by big-name companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe are now used by millions of people who want to uncover how their genes impact their health and their ancestry.
This strong desire to unwind DNA’s double-helix and has caused the genomics industry to boom. Ancestry.com recently announced they have reached four million users on their database and 23andMe has now reached 2 million customers. The genomic testing market as a whole was worth $70 million in 2015 and is expected to rise to $340 million by 2022. That is quite a lucrative and powerful business to be a part of.
Many entrepreneurs are very aware of this fact. Today, new consumer genomic startups are appearing all over the map – and they are aiming to expand far beyond health and ancestry.
A personalized DNA marketplace
With such a significant decrease in DNA sequencing cost, new startups have been able to market their products to a larger audience at a far more affordable price.
A startup that has jumped on this new wave of genomics is Helix. Created by Robin Thurston, Helix’s goal is to move sequencing technologies from the laboratory into a digital marketplace that is based on DNA. This means using genomic testing to unlock individuals’ lifestyles and product preferences. And one of the best parts of Helix’s business model is for the low cost of $80, customers can send in a spit sample and gain access to Helix’s diverse marketplace.
Ever wonder where your family came from? Helix can provide you with those answers. Want to find the next bottle of wine that is perfect for your DNA sequence? Helix can give you that. Interested in developing a fitness regime that is specific to you and your body? Helix has a product of that. In total, Helix currently has an array of 18 products designed to transform that one spit sample into a personalized shopping center.
Working out with your DNA
Avi Lasarrow, the founder of startup DNAFit, was also interested in helping individuals develop a personalized fitness regime. So he decided to focus his entire company on DNA-based exercises and diets.
Like other consumer genomic companies, DNAFit requires its customers to send in a simple saliva sample. But this time around, that small salvia sample will screen for gene variants that reveal information about individuals’ fitness abilities, nutrition, and overall wellbeing. For example, the test can tell people which foods they need to eat more of, or which ones they are intolerant to. It can also find which exercises are best suited for individuals’ bodies.
Andrew Steele, a retired Olympic athlete, is a big fan of this genetic approach to fitness. As the Head of Professional Sport and Fitness at DNAFit, he works to move genetic data out of the lab and into the gym, and in doing so, help people develop a more thorough understanding of their DNA and its relationship to what they eat and the energy they expend.
The chemistry behind human connections
Beyond fitness and product preferences, the popularity of DNA test has also inspired businesses to ask questions about other aspects of human life – including romantic relationships.
The question of why some people just “click” and how relationship bonds are formed has been of interest in the world of psychology for decades. Instant Chemistry, a Toronto-based startup founded by Ron Gonzalez PhD in 2013, is interested in this question as well and decided to take the science a step further.
Gonzalez originally aimed to incorporate scientific analysis into online dating in order to provide individuals with a more legitimate matchmaking experience. According to Gonzalez, the chemistry that people so often refer to is based on biology and genetics. More specifically, studies have shown that the differences in individuals’ immune systems can strengthen or weaken levels of attraction.
By applying DNA testing and a psychological assessment, Instant Chemistry now seeks apply this data to relationships. More specifically, the Couples Kit examines three aspects of relationship compatibility, biocompatibility – or complementary genes – neurocompatibility – or brain chemistry and emotional behavior – and psychological compatibility – or behavioral patterns. With this three-pronged approach, couples may strengthen their understanding of their behavior and attraction towards one another, therefore reinforcing the foundation of their relationship.
What this all means moving forward
There is a plethora of options out there for people interested in unraveling the complexity of their DNA. From health to fitness to relationships, genomic testing can greatly influence our connection to our body and our genetic makeup.
Genomic testing has also allowed us to take charge of our health; we now can uncover crucial pieces of our genetic makeup that were previously concealed within the complexity of the human genome. Additionally, we can catch a glimpse into the DNA that has been passed down to us from our families – be it positive or negative. And as the genomic industry grows, so will the opportunities to discover more about our DNA.
By strengthening our understanding of our genetics, we can learn how to design our lives in a way that best suits our health. As Helix, DNAFit, and Instant Chemistry demonstrate, genetic testing offers a window into a healthier and more vigorous present and future. We may not be able to change our genetics, but we can definitely change how we interact with them.
That way, we can work with our genes, not against them.
Dr. Obianuju Helen Okoye is an American Public Health Physician/Health Care Executive/Researcher/Entrepreneur with a Medical Degree (MD), an MBA in Healthcare Management, and a Masters in Epidemiology/Public Health) with vast experience in clinical medicine, public health, mental health, telemedicine, Market Access, Health Economics and Outcomes Research, coupled with an exceptional background in Health Care Administration and Clinical expertise. She has been featured on NBC News, Yahoo News, The Huffington Post, Tonic by VICE, She Knows, Massage Magazine, Carol Roth, among others. She is a contributing writer to Entrepreneur magazine and the Huffington Post, and has been a scientific writer for the renowned websites The Paleo Diet and AusMed.
Her background includes being a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Research Fellow, and State of Michigan HIV/AIDS Epidemiologist.
She has a plethora of clinical research experience and has presented at US and International Medical Conferences. Dr. Okoye has authored some publications, and is considered an expert on the Affordable Care Act.