Meet the Startup: Chronomics’ epigenetics out of the lab

Making progress and currently fundraising: “The world’s first epigenetic platform for health measure discovery.”

While questions have recently been raised around the validity of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, it is undeniable that it is a significant and growing market segment. British start-up Chronomics sets itself apart from many of the tests that are available, offering epigenetic tests and indications that are repeatable. This allows people to track and monitor how factors like behavioural changes or health and wellness programs, are impacting their body at a DNA level. The company claims its tests assess more than 20 million epigenetic positions in DNA, with other tests typically assessing less than 2% of this.

Chronomics CEO, Dr Tom Stubbs, is a leader in this scientific field, with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in the epigenetics of aging, and numerous publications to his name. We spoke to Dr Stubbs to learn more about what’s next for the company.

Longevity.Technology: What is your route to market?
Tom Stubbs: We are taking epigenetics out of the lab and into the health and wellbeing markets. We are building the objective measures of health that will deliver preventive health management, as such we’ve seen interest from a range of consumers, partners and distributors across the health and wellbeing sectors. Currently, we are focused on growing through channel partners and distributors in health and wellbeing sectors. Our epigenetic measures of health, including biological age, metabolic risk status, and current systemic alcohol exposure are giving partners the tools to support their clients living longer, healthier and happier lives. In many cases these partners understand the power of epigenetics through the aging clock and are excited to partner with Chronomics to bring deeper insights to their clients.

It is incredibly motivating to see the winds of change in mainstream healthcare. ‘Prevention’ is the word of this coming decade. Given 70% of global healthcare budgets are spent on lifestyle related chronic illnesses, health systems, wellness providers and clinicians need more powerful ways to stratify health risk and guide proactive decision making. With our unique and comprehensive approach to epigenetic testing – sequencing over 20 million DNA methylation positions across the genome – we quantify much more than just aging, analysing many aspects of health and lifestyle impact to build a complete picture of patient health risk.

Longevity.Technology: What are your growth plans over the next year and beyond?
Tom Stubbs: To date we have built the world’s first epigenetic platform for health measurement and demonstrated the power of epigenetics to measure many of the leading risk factors for the leading killers on the planet today. We have productised these measures and made them accessible to people, enabling people to understand, to contextualise and to action their results. This platform combined with these products place us in a commanding position to continue to discover and surface novel epigenetic health measures as our data universe grows – a taste of things to come.

The next year will be focused on expanding into verticals where the end user directly benefits from preventive epigenetic health measures. Working with a growing number of partners in the longevity, prevention, and wellness space, and engaging in pilots with larger health systems. In parallel we are developing relationships with pharma to benchmark drug discovery programs in the longevity space.

Chronomics is building the tools to deliver the future of prevention. As such, we envisage a world where epigenetic testing becomes an integral part of healthcare, as healthcare shifts to preventive health management.

Longevity.Technology: What are your funding plans?
Tom Stubbs: Chronomics received $100K in initial funding in Q1 2018 from California based VC SOSV, and subsequently raised a $1.4m seed round in Q3 2018, led by London based VC Anthemis Exponential Ventures. We are currently raising a funding round to extend the reach of our products, taking the epigenetic revolution into mainstream health and wellbeing.

We are interested in speaking with VCs, corporate venture arms and family-offices. Investors at the frontier of technology and biology, who see the shift occurring in healthcare from reactive and generalist to preventive and personalised and who can leverage their own expertise and network to support our growth.

Longevity.Technology: What are the main business challenges facing start-ups in the Longevity sector?
Tom Stubbs: One of the largest obstacles for many companies within the space, is defining success or measuring endpoints in a tractable manner. For interventions and therapeutics to deliver in this space, alternative mechanisms for measuring efficacy are crucial and often dictate how companies in this space get to market. At Chronomics, we are defining the objective measures of health that go beyond blunt measures of biological age and have the power to support the longevity space through provision of tractable measures of efficacy and impact.

The longevity sector is hugely important for the future of health globally and we are excited to be delivering the tools to support the companies developing the therapeutics and interventions that will define the future of prevention.

Longevity.Technology: What are your thoughts on the concerns raised by the Royal College of General Practitioners regarding direct-to-consumer genetic testing?

Tom Stubbs: We agree with some of the concerns raised by the Royal College of GPs and indeed many of those concerns are the main reasons why we created Chronomics in the first place. We wanted to give people a DNA test that measures the effects of lifestyle and environmental factors, that was actionable, that addressed the caveats of previous DNA technologies and that protected the data of our users under GDPR. We are delighted to have accomplished all those goals.

Longevity.Technology: And finally – if you had the power to change one thing about the world to help improve global Longevity, what would it be?
Tom Stubbs: This question quickly gets very existential… To improve productive and healthy longevity, I would promote ways to connect a heightened sense of purpose throughout life with the incentive to be as healthy as possible today and to stay healthy and active for as long as possible.

Apart from fear of dying, living longer for the sake of it is not very motivating. Studies have repeatedly shown one of the most powerful drivers for prolonged health is a sense of purpose. We’re going to live longer, so what are we going to do with our extra years? This links in with social trends adapting to the increasing number of able-bodied over 65’s who are not retiring, and a heightened sense of stewardship of the planet we live on. So when we live longer, we’re able to inhabit and pass on to our children a better world than we live in today.

Our Meet the Start-up articles profile emerging companies in the Longevity sector, with a focus on their funding plans, commercialisation strategies, partnerships and routes-to-market. If you know of a startup that we should be talking to, let us know!