An article in New York Times in 2018 described a novel benefit for employees introduced by Levi Strauss & Company in San Francisco: free genetic screening to assess their hereditary risks for certain cancers and high cholesterol. Its CEO Chip Bergh wanted to reduce the company’s employee health care costs – naturally, any CEO would! So he hoped for a positive response from his employees. In the article, it states that other companies in the US like Nvidia, Salesforce, SAP, Slack, Stripe, Snap and Visa have offered the genetic screenings as an employee benefit. The company they used was US-based Color Genomics, a start-up that has quickly become a leader in employee genetic screening and counseling.
Hong Kong / Singapore
Meanwhile over in Hong Kong, Bloomberg article delves into a test subject from Hong Kong – David Leung who took a genetic test that came free with an insurance policy and has since followed a diet plan inspired by his DNA report. Prenetics Inc analysed Mr Leung’s genes and has sold more than 100,000 DNA testing kits in 2018 and aims to double sales volumes this year as it starts marketing directly to consumers as well as through insurers. Its executive officer Danny Yeung said that they want to “democratise genetic testing.” Leung’s genetic analysis and diet recommendations were provided in a 44-page report with an additional feature of an app that enabled him to interact with a health coach.
Prenetics seem to have outdone itself with a new brand, Circle DNA – claiming it as THE WORLD’S MOST COMPREHENSIVE DNA TEST at USD189.
Moving down towards the equator in Southeast Asia is Singapore-based Imagene Labs that markets itself as a DNA-based beauty and wellness company that creates customised solutions based on individuals’ unique genetic traits. Its Managing Director Wong Mun Yew says, the company’s sales strategy is to forge partnerships with spa and fitness chains.
Further down under in Australia, we found myDNA. Founded in 2007 by leading Clinical Geneticist, Associate Professor Leslie Sheffield, myDNA aims to unlock the power of personal genomics for everyday consumers. May 2019 marks the month that this Aussie company has stepped into the United States of America and will be launching two main products for that market; Nutrition & Fitness (MSRP USD99) provides personalised Nutrition, Fitness and Caffeine Reports. Vitamins (MSRP USD89) identifies 12 genes that help determine a person’s need for nine different vitamins and minerals.
Making nutrition personal in the USA
Personalised nutrition is forecasted to be worth $US11.5 billion by 2025 worldwide (2018 Axiom Market Research report). An article by the Australian Financial Review spoke to Dr Michael Fenech, founding president of the Asia-Pacific Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics Organisation who co-authored a paper evaluating scientific evidence for genotype-based, personalised, dietary advice. Basically, eating right for your gene-type. He gave an example about obesity. An area where our responses to food differ and where, potentially, nutrigenomics could help us lose a few kilos. “Multiple genes, including the FTO gene, are involved in metabolism and weight control and a personalised diet may increase the chance of a dieter’s success,” he says.
DNA testing disclaimers
When customers sign up, swab and send their DNA to the respective DNA testing providers, they need to know that their data may be shared with research partners of those DNA testing labs. Also, that they need to be prepared for unexpected surprises from the results of their DNA tests.
Is DNA testing a means to gather data to prolong life span?
Did you know, that search engine giant Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have such great interest in researching to extend life span that they setup Calico, a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. Their interest was reported in an article in the Australian Financial Review, which shares, “Brin inherited a gene that predisposes him to Parkinson’s disease, and Page has nerve damage that affected his vocal cords.” I found this intriguing that the world’s largest Internet search engine company has made its mark in DNA Testing via AncestryDNA, a provider known for ethnicity genetics testing from only USD59. Besides providing the world with free internet, perhaps this could be the start of a life lengthening elixir.
This article has been compiled from various sources gathered from published articles, written and edited by Jasmine Low, co-founder Asia Fitness Today. No payment has been derived from this piece and is not an advertorial nor endorsement. Thoughts expressed are the author’s own.