One of the leaders in health and nutrition came to our London office to talk biohacking, investing, big data and neuroceuticals.
Longevity remains open to interpretation for many and there is, for most, an undefined (and possibly non-existent) line between nutrition and exercise to stay healthy and active pursuit of interventions to live longer.
Martin Tobias is a serial entrepreneur, investor and the CEO of Upgrade Labs – he’s also the founder of the world’s biggest biohacking event – Upgrade XP, which takes place this month. He’s also best-pals with Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of New York Times bestseller The Bulletproof Diet: Dave is (very actively) planning to live to 180.
- Once we have a certain amount of people through our system we will have a robust enough database to put that into an app
- There are plenty of people in LA that understand the value of investing in their health before they have to invest in their healthcare from a doctor
- Neuroceuticals, software versions of drugs, are going to fundamentally change the cost structure of delivering pharmaceutical benefits to people.
Longeveity.Technology: We’ve had a number of start-ups pitching us about new Longevity clinical franchises they’re looking to start. Fresh after having his glucose monitor fitted, we sat down with Martin to understand the clinical model for Longevity: with 2 high-end clinics in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and more to come, we wanted to understand the business better:
Longevity.Technology: Tell us about why you started Upgrade Labs?
Martin Tobias: Most people don’t want to be 90 years old with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but if they could be 90 years with the physique and the cognition of a 30 year old, then I don’t think people would mind. So that’s our plan: try to keep people optimised around the 30 year old level, measure things accurately, and keep people at that pace for a long time.
We address biomarkers in three main clusters: brain, body, and systems function.
Longevity.Technology: There’s a growing debate about biomarkers and Longevity, what Biomarkers do you track?
Martin Tobias: Google doesn’t publish its page rank algorithm, and frankly, I don’t care as long as it gives me good results and as long as search results continue to improve it over time. We take the same approach with our clients. What you really need is a guide to understand your own personal goals, your own current body and genetics and things like that, and then we put a programme together of multiple interventions to improve results.
Physical body function includes muscle mass, body mass, mobility and stuff like that – we also check underlying systems function such as immune system – tracking immune response, blood glucose and hormones levels, basically, all the systems that have to do with homeostasis.
We measure the 32 biomarkers that we think are important, then we put together a program. We remeasure them later to see if we’re doing it right because the other part about the biohacking approach is that you’re doing systemic analysis.
There are three or four basic reasons why your health could have been compromised. It could have been environmental toxins, it could have been epigenetics. It could have been other things, but that’s what we do. We look at the those three areas of the brain, the body, and then the subsystems.
Moving biomarkers to make people better is one thing, and then the second thing is removing the complexity of all the different vendors to choose from. Say for example, if you need red light therapy – there are probably 30 companies to choose from, so we help people navigate through all of that.
Longevity.Technology: So, from a bricks and mortar clinical perspective, what’s the experience like?
Martin Tobias: To get you on-boarded you’ll spend time with one of our biohacker techs, they understand all the new technologies to address your primary goal. You might be trying to live longer, you might have a particular acute condition that you’re worried about. Are you trying to lose weight, sleep better or just trying to get more energy? We don’t do we don’t deal with patients that have any diagnosed disease. The issues people have today aren’t chronic, they’re systemic in nature.
For example, Chronic Fatigue is a systemic thing that could be caused by multiple factors. And it those things that are much harder because they’re not acute – if you have a broken arm, you have a broken arm. But if you have weird symptoms, it could be caused by many things it takes longer to figure out. We take a systemic approach, but the entire medical system is not designed for systemic it’s designed for one diagnosis, one treatment.
Longevity.Technology: This level of investigation and support can’t be cheap, right?
Martin Tobias: It is expensive, but there are plenty of people in LA that understand the value of investing in their health before they have to invest in their healthcare from a doctor. We have a good business; the average member pays us about $800 a month, but we’re designing a new store and customer experience.
Longevity.Technology: Bricks and mortar infrastructure isn’t very scalable; is digital in the roadmap?
Martin Tobias: We are building clinics and we are going to build more, so after we have 15-to-20 clinics, we’ll have a lot of data. Once we have, say, 100,000 people that had been through our clinics, we have the insights to understand the relationships between their actual health, their symptoms and their biomarkers. I think once we have a certain amount of people through our system we will have a robust enough database to put that into an app that could be used by somebody that’s not near our facilities.
Longevity.Technology: So, digital interventions?
Martin Tobias: Neuroceuticals, software versions of drugs, are going to fundamentally change the cost structure of delivering pharmaceutical benefits to people. There are different devices, but I think one of the most interesting that I’ve seen so far, has this necklace that you put on over your neck [the Hap Bee device], and it’s got a Bluetooth transmitter that connects to your phone. And so, you pick the drug that you want on your phone, it sends the recording of that drug to your device, and then your device plays it through sound transducers to the body – the nervous system detects those chemicals, by way of their electrochemical signal.
They can digitally record basically anything and, by the way, I think nicotine is one of the great Longevity drivers – there’s tonnes of research around it preventing Alzheimer’s neurodegenerative anyway. The six digital drugs that they’re launching with include nicotine, caffeine and melatonin.
But what they’re doing is playing an electrical chemical signal near the body and it works! I pushed melatonin, and in 15 minutes my heart rate went from 65 to 50 – my body thought I had taken like 40 milligrammes of melatonin. And it was a software app! Then I hit double espresso and 15 minutes later, my heart rate 65, I’m awake! My body reacted despite the fact that it was a software app on my phone.
Longevity.Technology: So you’re obviously into cutting edge stuff, tell us about the conference?