In addition to being conditioned by luck and genetics, the development of a disease is also driven by environmental factors and a person's lifestyle. In an aging society, many pathologies become chronic. However, most chronic diseases could be avoided, as they are caused by external agents that can be controlled. Beyond smoking, lack of exercise or diet, one of the causes of these diseases not being tackled in time is that people do not have information about how their day to day is affecting their health.
To facilitate access to this information, innovator Tom Stubbs founded Chronomics and developed an epigenetic tool. This technology analyzes how the genome is modified according to internal signals, such as hormonal responses to a mental state, and external signals such as pollution and diet. Thanks to this project, the biotechnologist has become one of the winners of Innovators Under 35 Europe from MIT Technology Review.
The tool analyzes a person's saliva sample and, from there, offers personalized indicators about their health and extracts the probabilities they have of suffering from a disease. In particular, it examines DNA methylation, a procedure that is associated with a number of processes such as aging and the appearance of cancer.
To achieve this, it employs state-of-the-art sequencing technologies that allow it to assess continuous flows of DNA sequences and access much more accurate data. It also uses machine learning techniques to keep the tool learning as it collects more data and makes predictions based on the user's biological age, i.e., their age based on their physical and mental state regardless of how old they are.
Through these techniques, Chronomics evaluates more than 20 million epigenetic variables and establishes precise conclusions. It then sends and explains this information to the user in an understandable way. According to the innovator, this helps people decide which personal care options will work best based on objective, easy-to-understand data about their DNA.
At the moment, the tool is available through its partners and distributors. Although other similar companies already offer epigenetic analysis, Stubbs' provides added value by "encouraging each person to take initiative to manage their well-being," says its creator, adding that "the idea is to show people the impact that the environment and their lifestyle have on their health in the future." For this reason, the start-up also offers expert advice for the user to adapt their lifestyle according to the stage in which they are living. Some of this advice includes what their diet should look like, how much physical exercise they have to do and how they have to take care of their mental health to boost their long-term well-being.
The founding team of Chronomics is made up of former scientists from Cambridge University and Oxford University, both in the UK, and experts in the fields of epigenetics, aging, and computational biology. Stubbs stresses that they have all published research articles related to epigenetics. This year they wrote an article for the journal Nature on how aging affects DNA methylation. "Chronomics products are based on a mature body of scientific knowledge," notes Stubbs. He also adds that world leaders in the fields of epigenetics, bioinformatics, and environmental epidemiology, such as Professors Wolf Reik, Dame Janet Thornton, and Paolo Vineis, respectively, have joined his Scientific Advisory Board.
CEO and co-founder of Founders Factory Ltd and member of the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2019 jury, Henry Lane Fox, says that Stubbs "brings unique research into a market with great potential. Furthermore, very few competitors work on technologies that can have such a massive impact on society as a whole."
By Alba Casilda
Translation: Brian Bostwick