Toolbox Genomics raises seed round for gene-based lifestyle recommendations

By Jonah Comstock
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Toolbox Genomics, a company that will soon begin to offer actionable health insights based on customers' sequenced genomes, has raised a small round of seed funding, the company told MobiHealthNews. The exact amount of the funding was not disclosed. The company's product will launch in mid-February for $49, CEO Didier Perez told MobiHealthNews.

"Basically what we do is based on a user's own DNA -- and currently the market is the 1.5 million 23andMe users who’ve done the test -- what they do is upload that data to our website and what we provide to them based on that data is practical and actionable food and lifestyle recommendations. Currently we are looking at about 60 biomarkers with an average of about 15 recommendations."

Examples of recommendations might include avoiding saturated fats, avoiding certain fruits, or adding foods to combat a Vitamin A or Vitamin C deficiency someone might be susceptible to. 

"You can only personalize to a point," Perez said. "Even if you give the perfect recommendation to someone, first, compliance is going to be important. But what we’re saying is, if you have those genes and you follow those steps, you’re most likely to be healthy. We don’t make a diagnostic. The diagnostic was made by 23andMe. It’s not an end-all and be-all by any means. It’s like a road map. But if you take that and you know what your doctor’s telling you, than you can make an educated guess."

The company's next step is to offer its own assay, so it's not dependent on 23andMe customers. That's going to require FDA 510(k) clearance, which is expensive, so Perez said they are waiting until they complete their Series A round to go down that road. But when they do they expect to add another 86 relevant biomarkers. Perez said they've learned from the experience of other genomics-focused companies with regard to the FDA.

"We took to heart what happened with other companies and the first thing we did in January of last year was hired an FDA consultant who started to work with us immediately," he said. "And right before we launched our beta testing, we hired a second FDA consultant. It is key in our opinion that we are always compliant with the FDA. In some cases there are no guidelines of what to do, but there guidelines of what not to do."

Toolbox Genomics' recommendations are based on more than 7,000 PubMed publications that point to links between genetic biomarkers, and food, fitness and lifestyle interventions. But the company recognizes it will need its own efficacy data, and hopes to collect that as it completes its beta test and launches the test commercially next month.