Epigenetic testing – promoting healthy longevity and disrupting the insurance industry

Erin Sharoni of FOXO on using epigenetic testing to optimise longevity and wellbeing.

Earlier this year we brought you the news that FOXO Technologies and NEOGEN Corporation have collaborated for an extensive epigenetic testing datasets research project that will examine the association between epigenetic aging and numerous behavioural, lifestyle, dietary and clinical risk factors, as well as major morbidity and mortality outcomes.

Biotech company FOXO is aiming to make longevity science fundamental to life insurance by applying epigenetic science and AI to commercialise saliva-based biomarkers, and the company has recently appointed Erin Sharoni as Chief Product Officer of FOXO LIFE, a life insurance company that is powered by molecular health technology.

the company has recently appointed Erin Sharoni as Chief Product Officer of FOXO LIFE, a life insurance company that is powered by molecular health technology.

Longevity.Technology: Erin Sharoni directs FOXO’s consumer-based health and wellness research objectives, which aim to provide consumers with a compelling user experience; with the worlds of epigenetic testing, personalised health and hyper-individualised insurance premiums colliding, we wanted to find out more about what epigenetic tests mean for insurance – and for longevity.

Watch our fascinating interview with Erin Sharoni in which we find out more about epigenetic testing, how the data revealed can help longevity and why understanding who owns that data is key.

Erin Sharoni on…

Epigenetics in a nutshell

People are excited about epigenetics because of the idea that your genes are not your destiny; there’s a lot you can do with that! Your environment has a very significant influence on how you age, what kind of health issues you do or not have – any many, many other things!

Epigenetic testing can take many forms; at FOXO, we are working with DNA methylation, a more stable mark. Methylation is a regulatory mechanism that changes as we age and as we are exposed to various environmental factors, whether that’s smoking, drinking, diet, sleep, your relationships, pollution in the air… This is relevant for so many things, particularly for longevity, because of research that has come out of epigenetics, like your biological age and aging clocks.

Making waves in insurance

We are really excited about upgrading – or disrupting – the insurance industry. It’s old, it’s staid and it hasn’t changed in a long time. FOXO’s founder Jon Sabes makes an analogy with Tesla – FOXO is to the insurance industry what Tesla was to the automotive industry: we are really ‘changing the engine’ with this epigenetic technology and artificial intelligence.

And once the engine is upgraded, then you can reimagine the offering – next generation underwriting technology that will be less invasive, easier to access and hyperactive.

The importance of data

When it comes to biological data ownership, we have the opportunity to lead the way, appropriately and ethically. What we’re doing in this domain is pretty bold. Other companies do offer the ability to download a raw data file, but we are doing is enhanced: people can download their epigenetic data, own it and use it as they wish. You also can see dynamically and in real time where your data is, albeit anonymised and depersonalised. Is it in the lab? Is it in a study? Who is using it?

We planning to hone and develop that over time, but so far it’s been met with very positive response because there’s a perception that genetic data is so personal.

Photograph: FOXO