‘Any company that is not doing personalization is going to die’: Viome founder

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

‘Any company that is not doing personalization is going to die’: Viome founder

Related tags Personalization personalized nutrition microbiome Probiotics Prebiotics Dietary supplements

“Every person in the next five years is going to ask for foods that are personalized for them, and every ingredient is personalized for them,” said Naveen Jain during a recent webinar hosted by NutraIngredients-USA.

Speaking during the recent Personalized opportunities for microbiome optimization​ webinar, Jain, founder of Viome​, said that personalization is the key to the future of health and wellness.

“Any company that is not doing personalization is going to die,”​ he said. “Every person in the next five years is going to ask for foods that are personalized for them, and every ingredient is personalized for them. It’s up to us to provide them with the right set of ingredients that their body needs.”

Viome, said Jain, doesn’t focus exclusively on the microbiome but the whole human body.

“We saw that your DNA or genes are not your destiny. Your DNA never changes when you develop chronic diseases,” ​he said. “What really changes is your gene expression, and that’s what we look at at Viome. And that’s the gene expression of your microbiome, and of you the host. That means were looking at mitochondrial gene expression, human gene expression, oral microbial gene expression, gut microbial gene expression, on and on.

“And once we understand that, then we see what pathways are being activated and how do you modulate these pathways using the foods and supplements to decrease the things that are bad and increase the things that are good?”

The state of the science

Speaking about the state of the science, Mariëtte Abrahams, PhD​, CEO & Founder, Qina​, said that there is a lack of real-world evidence of what influences somebody’s dietary or food choices that can so much impact the microbiome.

“The consumer expectation is incredibly high at the moment, with what a microbiome test can tell them. From my point of view, there is a huge responsibility on industry to be transparent about the state of the science because it is early, and we don’t really have great long-term data on any of the interventions, especially when it comes to the diet, on long-term health outcomes.

“We need to eat every day… and there’s enough studies and research to show that having a diverse diet, a slightly more plant-based diet, a high-fiber diet, these are the things that we already know that we can impact the health and the diversity of the microbiome. But even that, we are not doing well.”

Abrahams added that one of the big questions she gets asked over and over from her clients is about claims, and what can and cannot be communicated to consumers.

Healthcare practitioners are often asked by patients what to do, and they are the translators of the science, she said.

“There is a lack of educating the practitioners on what this technology really means, and what they can really say because what they know is what they read. The questions I usually get are, ‘what can we say?’ and, ‘how far can we go?’,” ​she said.

“We also know that the people who [currently] benefit from personalized nutrition solutions are the people that don’t really need it, or that already have a good diet, but can afford a high-priced test,”​ added Abrahams. “And that’s not really the target we’re looking for to reduce global medical expenses. So, accessibility is a key point. We want to make sure that with what we know, the science that we have, that we need to make healthy food affordable for everybody.”

Staying within your range

“Everything about a human, no matter what measure, is individual,”​ said Jim Kaput, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Cofounder, Vydiant Inc​. “So logically, the microbiome must be different. And to think that there is one magic microbiome, as many of the early companies [in this space] thought, was pretty simplistic.

“The issue is on how to maintain an individual’s ‘healthy’ biome, and that is still a very open question,” ​added Kaput, who was formerly a senior expert at the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences and before that was director of the Division of Personalized Nutrition and Medicine at the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research.

“So, the question is, because we live within ranges, and if you’re within that range that is right for you then you’re going to be doing pretty good. And if we can figure out that range for you, I think that’s the approach we’re going to go to get to a definition of health for each individual. What’s your range genetically, and environmentally, and socially, and if you’re within that range and if you can adapt to changes in life (and that’s broadly speaking), then I think you can say you’re healthy.”

A future for focused personalization?

Marc Brush, Principal of Bend LLC​, explained that he is seeing brands move away from general health and see more personalization at a granular level.

“This is a hypothesis I’m working on,”​ said Brush. “When we talk about personalizing, it implies this specificity about our health, but the upshot of that is a very generalized solution: You’re going to take a quiz, pull some diagnostics, and we’re going to make you healthier. There are some companies that are tackling a category or a claims area, one of these structure-function claims that we all know well in the supplements world, and personalize there.

“Gut health would be a clear winner, but it’s not the only one any more. For immunity, there’s a company called Big Bold Health, which is a Jeff Bland venture, that pre-COVID was trying to figure out how to take all these tools and do something different with them. I’m expecting more of that, especially when you get to doctors and practitioners.

“Sports is obviously an area where this is going to pop up, and even the cognition space.”

Qina’s Dr Abrahams added, “Especially with COVID, people have realized that nutrition plays such a key role in health, but nutrition also plays a key role in microbiome health, and so people are looking at this holistic solution where people want these multi-beneficial products or solutions. “

To watch the webinar on-demand, please click HERE​.

The webinar was sponsored by:

Atlantia Food Clinical Trials​: A world class company that performs acute, observational and intervention studies to ICH-GCP standards for the functional foods and beverages, supplements, pre- and probiotics and microbiome-based therapeutics sectors. 

ADM​: Leaders in the scale-up and industrial manufacturing of probiotics, developing novel, proprietary and tailored strains for skin health, gastrointestinal health, immune health, oral health, and more every year that go through extensive preclinical and initial clinical evaluation.

LactoSpore​: Sabinsa’s shelf-stable probiotic Bacillus coagulans​ MTCC 5856 is known worldwide as LactoSpore. The health benefits and stability of LactoSpore have been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals.

Probi​: An international company focused exclusively on developing, producing, and delivering clinically proven probiotics. The company are experts at managing stable, live bacteria from R&D through every stage of the manufacturing process, and into finished products, including bulk formats, supplements, and functional foods.

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