Everyday epigenetics – how FOXO Life is expanding consumer access to healthy longevity

Proprietary epigenetic testing score-based direct-to-consumer ‘longevity report’ plans to be first to market.

Recently we covered 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.

Longevity.Technology: Biotech 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.

Sharoni will direct FOXO’s consumer-based health and wellness research objectives that provide consumers with a compelling user experience, and with the worlds of epigenetic testing, personalised health and hyper-individualised insurance premiums colliding, we sat down with her to find out more.

Along with NEOGEN, FOXO Technologies has created one of the largest epigenetic datasets in history and it’s set to be a powerful tool. With over 25 years of longitudinal data on mortality, health, and epigenetics, FOXO LIFE will able to develop new and more powerful predictive epigenetic testing models.

READ MORE: New research shows epigenetic age can predict cognitive function

“We’ll be also able to compare the performance of our epigenetic biomarkers head-to-head against traditional clinical biomarkers and understand the degree of overlap as well as how (and in what contexts) one might perform better than the other,” explains Sharoni.

Sharoni feels that more and more people are waking up to the importance – and the possibilities – of epigenetic testing.

“It’s an exciting field that is generating a lot of public interest, as evidenced by the range of podcast interviews and media coverage on the topic,” she explains.

“People have heard the phrase ‘your genes are not your destiny’ for a long time now, as reassurance that their chromosomal inheritance does not seal their fate,” says Sharoni, explaining that there is naturally an interest in the idea that you have some control over how your genes express themselves (the science of epigenetics) via lifestyle choices like diet, sleep, exercise and stress management.

Erin Sharoni says she’s excited about the launch of FOXO LIFE and is really looking forward to seeing how consumers react to the epigenetic testing information that will available.

“We’ll be the first to market with an epigenetics-based DTC ‘longevity report’ product that includes not just a picture of someone’s biological age, but proprietary epigenetic scores we’ve developed in-house with the use of deep machine learning technology that provide directional indicators of wellness in the areas of cardiovascular, metabolism, inflammation, and more,” she says.

Of course, the insurance industry is not without its critics; there may well be some suspicion that insurance companies are going to use epigenetic testing profiling to increase the premiums of those ‘at risk’ rather than decreasing the premiums of people who are taking positive steps to improve their healthspan.

However, Sharoni explains that this not FOXO’s MO at all.

“We do not use epigenetic technology to penalize people for their state of health or rate of aging. This is a very important distinction for people to understand,” she explains. “The accelerated underwriting process for the product we are launching with is industry-standard. The use of epigenetics in our product at launch is limited to consumer engagement; it provides additional value, at no cost to the insurance policyholder, to give them a snapshot of their longevity and wellness without the usual invasive blood or urine specimen collection process (that is common in life insurance).

“Because your epigenetic profile changes over time, in response to environmental inputs, it gives people the opportunity to change and improve; it is a dynamic indicator of lifespan/healthspan, not a fixed one that is inherited at birth. This is a key distinction.”

FOXO’s epigenetic testing analysis is based on an easy at-home test – the company mails out the kit, the customer spits in the tube and posts it back.

“The FOXO lab uses microarray technology to analyze the epigenetic signatures in the saliva, and the deidentified data is run through our deep machine learning models and generates the personalized results that are included in your FOXO Longevity Report,” explains Sharoni. “When it’s ready for viewing, you receive an email reminding you to log in and access your results. It’s very simple and very secure.”

Sharoni adds that another unique feature of the product is that FOXO allows the customer to download the raw epigenetic data file in .csv format.

“We believe it’s your data, and you should be free to do what you wish with it (with the understanding of its sensitivity, of course),” she says.

READ MORE: FOXO exclusively licenses epigenetic clocks from UCLA