Cambridge, MA-based InsideTracker was founded in 2009 and offers personalized nutrition support based on blood tests of 40 select biomarkers. While healthcare professionals use blood tests to assess if you have normal or abnormal values, InsideTracker is interested in optimal levels.
The company was founded by Gil Blander, PhD, who spent five years at MIT after 10 years at the Weizmann Institute and has done extensive research into biological markers in the blood. The company's scientific advisory board reads like a who’s who of the best researchers of nutrition and aging in the US, including Prof David Sinclair from Harvard Medical School, Prof Jeff Blumberg from Tufts University, Prof Lenny Guarente from MIT, and Prof Roger Fielding from Tufts University.
Changes… and supplements
The company launched its testing and analytics kits service to consumers in 2013, and the offering has changed over the last couple of years, said Sellam. “What’s changed is that we’ve gone from having a highly sophisticated set of algorithms that quantify health and self, and found a way to work more personally with greater simplicity and more insight, and added more biomarkers,” he told us.
“Two years ago we had no way of taking the user by the hand and leading them through the process. The interface has now become a lot more visual, exciting and engaging. We’ve created scientifically validated goals for them, and we ask them what changes they can easily and willingly make, such as food, exercise, healthy living (sleep, stress, etc), and supplements.”
“Rather than fight supplements like others do, we decided that people need to supplement in some situations such as, for example, low vitamin D . Personalization is the key in what is going to get people to understand why they need supplements and how they actually work.”
As such, the company has also expanded its capabilities on the supplementation side. “About 92% of our users told us they wanted to receive supplement recommendations,” he said.
“We have received more interest and inquiries from dietary supplement companies in the last 12 months than in the history of the company,” he said. However, InsideTracker does not recommend or sell any supplement brands. The technology will tell users what supplements they may need, for example vitamin B12 supplements, but the company then leaves it up to the user to select the brand they purchase. Dosages, time of the day to consume it, interaction with other food / supplements, and what to consume it with are recommended, and the scientific reference is the only information it provides.
Testing thousands of consumers, and then following them as they optimize their health markers has provided InsideTracker with a vast data set, and this has thrown up some surprises along the way, said Sellam.
“The most interesting and surprising thing to us is the power of the data because the outcomes are showing a significant impact across a large majority of the biomarkers. Because we’re only using peer-reviewed science for our recommendations we always assumed it was going to work (the company has the equivalent of 52 person-years of curated science behind the scenes), but we now have longitudinal data across key biomarkers that shows this is working, and our users are testing over and over again,” he said.
And the company is packaging this up for peer-review publication. “We took the raw data and started demonstrating to our scientific advisory board how powerful this is,” said Sellam. “It clearly shows how important and powerful lifestyle is for your health.”
To date the company has only worked with blood, but is working on adding a genetic component, said Sellam. Many of the details are covered by a non-disclosure agreement, but Sellam noted that blood and genetic testing will produce a very powerful combination.
“InsideTracker was never a black box,” he said. “Users can click on the recommendations and we’ll show you the scientific references those are based on.”
While the company’s client list includes Olympians, players and coaches from the big pro sports in the US, the user sweet spot are people aged between 35 and 55, with a strong concentration in the 40 to 49 group.
“Most of these people are somewhat athletic because they want to age gracefully,” he noted.