Startup Spotlight

Q&A: Tally Health CEO on slowing down the epigenetic clock

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© Tally Health
© Tally Health

Related tags healthy aging longevity Dna Startup company

Co-founded by longevity expert and Harvard genetics professor Dr. David Sinclair and serial entrepreneur Whitney Casey, Tally Health entered the market earlier this year as a health ally for anyone looking to improve healthspan and increase longevity.

The launch followed the publication of Dr. Sinclair’s “Information Theory of Aging” in the journal Cell​, the culmination of decades of epigenetic research which identifies the mechanism through which aging occurs in the body. His work advances a scientific understanding of aging as a breakdown of cellular identity and cellular function over time as a result of an altered epigenome. 

“In layman’s terms, if you think of your DNA as a CD that gets scratched over time and can no longer produce sound like it did when it was new, as we age our epigenome is damaged in the same way, impacting the health of our cells and how we age,” Melanie Goldey, CEO at Tally Health, told NutraIngredients-USA. “Fortunately, Dr. Sinclair’s research also indicated that certain compounds and lifestyle interventions can slow the rate of cellular aging and that epigenetic age can be accurately and repeatedly measured.”

Here, Goldey discusses the science and datasets behind the brand's testing and subscription program, the growing consumer and cultural interest in longevity resources, and what can be done to target the hallmarks of aging.

NIU: What should consumers know about longevity and aging? What should they know about how they can change the way they age? 

MG: Recent research shows that on a population level, less than 10% of your longevity is predetermined by genetics. That means over 90% is up to your lifestyle choices and environment—your choices matter.  

Today's healthcare system is fundamentally built to address the symptoms of aging, rather than proactively preventing age-related disease and conditions. Tally Health’s mission is to help change the way we age by providing tools and resources to improve both lifespan and healthspan. Consumers should feel empowered to take control of how they are aging based on the latest scientific advancements. With Tally, users are armed with more information about their health and the tools to make real change.

NIU: Could you tell us a bit more about how Tally Health’s program works? How personalized are the recommendations? 

Melanie Goldey, CEO Tally Health
Melanie Goldey, CEO, Tally Health @ Tally Health

MG: The Tally Health program consists of three components: the TallyAge Test, personalized Action Plans, and unique supplement blends created by Tally Health’s research team to target the hallmarks of aging. 

The TallyAge Test is a proprietary biological age clock that was trained to predict biological age while incorporating differences in lifestyle factors (e.g., sleep, diet, exercise, and stress). The test itself is an easy, at-home, non-invasive buccal cheek swab. 

It analyzes DNA methylation sites (CpG sites) and is specifically filtered for sites that are correlated to aging. Since DNA methylation patterns change with age in predictable ways, they can be analyzed to estimate an individual’s biological age, which is an indicator of an individual's cellular rate of aging. While there are many ways to estimate biological age—such as tracking movement or measuring clinical markers in blood—tests based on DNA methylation are thought to represent the gold standard. Tally Health uses a proprietary algorithm in conjunction with a user’s DNA methylation profile to calculate a user's final TallyAge, or their epigenetic age. Users also complete a self-reported Tally Health Lifestyle Survey scored out of 100. 

Tally Health members are provided with a personalized Action Plan based on their unique DNA profile to improve their epigenetic age. Recommendations are actionable and can include increasing or decreasing certain food groups, exercise, stress management techniques, alcohol consumption, and are ranked based on a member’s DNA and lifestyle data to identify highest-impact changes to help lower epigenetic age. 

Tally Health’s memberships also include access to Tally’s foundational longevity supplements, Vitality, which addresses all 12 hallmarks of aging, and Amplify, which targets metabolic and mitochondrial health.  

NIU: What have you learned from the data collected from the TallyAge tests to date? 

MG: Tally Health’s proprietary dataset continues to grow cumulatively beyond the original sample set which informed the creation of the TallyAge epigenetic age clock. Tally’s research team spent a year prior to consumer launch creating the largest adult buccal data set globally based on 8,000 highly diverse samples from participants aged 18-100, and over 30% of whom are non-white. The dataset includes both single data points per user and—importantly—longitudinal data points. Tally Health’s growing longitudinal database is rare within the market and has the potential to inform not only future consumer offerings but the larger scientific community and study of epigenetics at large.

NIU: How did you choose the ingredients in the Vitality and Amplify formulations?

MG: The Vitality and Amplify formulation were subject to strict criteria set internally by Tally Health to ensure the final product is backed by science and designed to target biological aging. These criteria include human clinical trials indicating safe and tolerable dosage, mechanistic evidence that each ingredient alleviates established hallmarks of aging, and peer-reviewed published data on animal models showing that these molecules can enhance the period of healthy, disease-free life. 

NIU: Could you tell us a bit more about this mechanistic evidence? Have you tested the formulations for synergistic effect, or is the science based on the individual ingredients? 

David Sinclair, Tally Health
David Sinclair, Co-founder, Tally Health @ Tally Health

MG: Vitality is designed to help slow aging by inducing autophagy, a natural cellular process that recycles old and damaged cells; providing a key mitochondrial metabolite required for energy production; activating sirtuin proteins that modify our epigenome and regulate repair processes; and removing senescent or “zombie” cells. It contains five key ingredients: calcium alpha-ketoglutarate (1000mg), fisetin (100mg), quercetin (500mg), trans-resveratrol (500mg), and spermidine (900mcg). 

The molecules in Amplify are designed to work together to slow aging by improving cellular energy production, activating the metabolic sensor AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inducing autophagy. The supplement’s active elements collectively mimic the benefits of clearing out the pro-aging amino acid methionine, boosting energy production and exercise performance, and improving metabolism. Amplify optimizes cellular performance through these processes by ridding the body of damaged or dysfunctional material and promoting heightened function. It is formulated with glycine (1000mg), berberine (600mg) and urolithin A (250 mg).

NIU: What sets Tally Health’s supplements apart from other longevity/healthy aging supplements on the market? 

MG: Both Tally Health supplements, Vitality and Amplify, provide unique ingredient formulations otherwise not available on the market that specifically target longevity and aging. The ingredients in both the Vitality and Amplify supplements, purchased individually, would dramatically exceed the cost of a Tally membership. And, Tally Health members receive the added benefit of regular epigenetic testing as well as individualized Action Plans to work in tandem with Vitality and Amplify to help lower epigenetic age.  

NIU: How has the brand been received and grown since launch? 

MG: Pre-launch, Tally Health amassed a 270,000+ person waitlist, which served as a significant testament to consumer interest in the longevity space and healthy aging more broadly. Since launch Tally has onboarded thousands of members and is growing exponentially.

In April 2023, Tally Health secured $10M in seed funding to expand our products and services as we scale. The round was led by Forerunner Ventures with additional participation by L ​Catterton, G9 Ventures and celebrity investors including John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Pedro Pascal, Shonda Rhimes, Kevin Hart, Rich Roll, Whitney Cummings, and Zac Efron, speaking to the growing consumer and cultural interest in longevity resources.

NIU: What is next for Tally Health? Do you have new supplements or initiatives in the pipeline? ​  

Whitney Casey, Tally Health
Whitney Casey, Co-founder, Tally Health © Tally Health

MG: Plans include additional, specialized supplements subject to rigorous testing and based upon proven science. To support this, Tally Health’s internal scientific research team is building evidence to inform future brand offerings as well as the greater scientific community and global body of longevity research. Tally Health is also investing considerably in its member experience to add even more functionality and detail to its members’ Action Plans.

NIU: Is it possible to reverse aging?​ 

MG: Based on published clinical trials, we know that biological age can be changed in as little as months. The extent of change and the duration required to observe an effect likely differ based on the intensity and consistency of individual lifestyle interventions.

By making healthy lifestyle changes and bolstering these changes with science-backed supplements targeting the hallmarks of aging, like Tally Health’s Vitality and Amplify, people can see their epigenetic age decrease. The easiest, low impact change to make is to include these supplements, which mimic the effects of wellness habits, in a daily health regimen.

NIU: What advice would you offer other startups in this space?

MG: Research is the heart of this movement. Invest in research that informs consumer-facing products and services to improve the quality of life for all. Dr. Sinclair has said that the first person to live to 150 may already have been born, but we will need many teams working in tandem to achieve this goal.

NIU: And, if I may ask, what did the TallyAge Test tell Dr. Sinclair about his biological age?​ 

MG: Dr. Sinclair’s biological age is approximately 10 years younger than his chronological age.*

*Dr. Sinclair is 54 years old.

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