The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Sergey Musienko, chief executive officer and co-founder of Atlas Biomed, a health tech company based in London that offers DNA and gut microbiome tests directly to consumers. Musienko discussed how these tests can help users evaluate their health status through personalized recommendations and advice to improve wellbeing.
This interview has been edited.
Eline Chivot: What is your background, what inspired you to create Atlas Biomed, and what did you hope to achieve?
Sergey Musienko: Atlas is what happens when a bioinformatician becomes passionate about omics. You know, it’s surprisingly easy to become fascinated with the minutiae of the body’s molecular mechanics when you come from a field like bioinformatics. After that, I was awarded a place at the Singularity University, where our sole mission was to explore how emerging technologies could shape the future.
And that is where the seed of Atlas was born. Having worked on projects in hospital settings, I could see how applying precision technologies could help develop personalized solutions to the growing burden of chronic illness. As DNA technologies became widespread and costs fell, this new market finally emerged, and so did Atlas.
Chivot: What makes Atlas Biomed stand out from other genomics companies such as 23andMe?
Musienko: Essentially, we’ve created an ecosystem for preventive health that identifies modifiable risks and provides guidance on how to mitigate them. Our aim since the beginning has been to develop technologies, algorithms, and results that actually help people take control of their health with actionable advice. Not just run-of-the-mill recommendations, but dynamic, personalized lifestyle and dietary measures backed up by evidence-based explanations that everyone can understand.
Chivot: Which technologies did you use to develop your tools and generate results, and why are they particularly suited to provide genetic analyses?
Musienko: We made a choice to use only the most reliable technologies available out there. Customers receive medical-grade kits to collect and preserve their samples while en route to the lab. After that, they are analyzed using Illumina sequencing technology, a world leader in this area, in an ISO-approved EU facility.
Chivot: Atlas offers two different at-home test kits: A gut microbiome test, and a DNA kit. What are the objectives, and what are the testing procedure and sampling process like?
Musienko: Atlas tests are designed to help people achieve or maintain optimum health by identifying potential risks and taking measures to mitigate their effect on health by lifestyle and dietary measures as well as screening recommendations.
The sampling process is actually quite simple. You order online, a courier delivers to your door. You collect a saliva or stool sample, put it back in the box and send it off.
When you take an Atlas DNA test, you unlock multifactorial disease risks, your carrier status for hereditary diseases, nutrition reports, as well as sports, and personal and ancestry traits. It comes with a free in-depth health survey to assess other important health factors like your family history of disease, environmental and lifestyle risks.
The Atlas Microbiome Test focuses on the trillions of microbial cells in the colon. You discover the diversity of species (a key factor in health), their synthesis potential for essential nutrients like vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, levels of probiotic and beneficial bacteria, and their ability to break down dietary fibre.
We’ve actually designed the platform and results to integrate the data from both tests and get a full health profile of these microscopic processes inside the body.
We find that our tests appeal to a wide variety of customers. Many are actively pursuing health, some have had health problems and want to make positive changes, and others are simply curious about the invisible mechanics of their bodies.
Chivot: What is coming next for Atlas Biomed to further develop its services?
Musienko: Our big new service was actually just announced at the Web Summit in Lisbon: The world’s first AI food tracking app integrated with microbiome test data (and it’s free for our users).
Our team has harnessed the power of image recognition technology and machine learning, allowing users to take a photo of their meals and have the app recognize the ingredients and rate their food choices based on nutritional value. We’ve incorporated a scoring system to encourage good choices and explain why different foods may or may not contribute to microbiome health.
We also have B2B services which include a clinician portal with in-depth patient results for the DNA and microbiome tests. Our current aim is to broaden this service and increase the recognition and application of these technologies in healthcare so as to develop personalized care plans for patients.
To sum it up, our mantra is simple, on point, and guides everything we do: “Help people live healthier for longer.”