The smart way to stay healthy
A start-up has developed technology that allows patients to get tested and treated without seeing a doctor
In response to today's healthcare trend of personalised and precision medicine, a start-up from Singapore has come up with an approach to DNA testing offering personalised wellness solutions where consumers can get the results in digital format instead of seeing the doctor.
Headquartered in Singapore and having provided its services there for six months, Imagene Labs expanded to Malaysia, Hong Kong and now Thailand, which is the company's fourth market.
Imagene Labs is the lifestyle and wellness arm of Asia Genomics, one of the molecular diagnostics companies in the region. The company specialises in research in DNA testing and understanding Asian genetics to create end-to-end health and wellness products for consumers.
"Our R&D team comprises 10 people, led by researchers with PhD degrees with experiences in molecular genetics and bioinformatics," said Imagene Labs managing director Dr Mun-Yew Wong, noting that the company is also working with international technology partners such as Illumina, InSilico Medicine and Youth Laboratories.
The Singaporean start-up's services include personalised wellness solutions in the line of skincare, nutrition and fitness, customised to individuals' genetic profiles. The products are formulated for the individual based on their genetic make-up, and aimed at optimising the body's response to attaining overall and long-term health and wellness.
To start off, consumers browse Ori (www.askori.com) -- an online service that guides them to select and order their test kit. There are three types of tests to choose from: OriSKIN, OriVIT and OriFIT, which are specially designed to search for genetic markers that influence a person's skin, nutrition and fitness dispositions.
Upon receiving the selected kit, they submit their genetic material in the form of a saliva sample that is returned to Imagene's in-house lab where their DNA is extracted and analysed. Depending on the type of test selected, they receive a personalised report detailing their genetic predispositions to specific traits. Imagene Labs also provides actionable recommendations for each trait and disposition in these reports for consumers to immediately begin the next step for their health and wellness.
It normally takes around two weeks for an entire process -- from choosing the type of test, receiving the kit and the digital report to be delivered.
Jia Yi Har, vice-president and general manager of Imagene Labs, explained that once the company receives a saliva sample, it is processed by scientists at its in-house laboratory, to extract the customer's DNA.
"We use Illumina DNA microarray technology, developed in collaboration with several leading research institutions, to analyse the samples. This chip contains highly-informative, genome-wide markers found across diverse world populations, and allows us to quickly and easily sample the DNA for unique genetic dispositions to various wellness traits. The sample is then scanned on the Illumina iScan microarray, a robust platform that provides reproducible and high quality genotype data."
"We aim to empower consumers to access and understand their genetic blueprint in a non-invasive way, and take actionable steps to make informed choices that improve their quality of life," Dr Wong said.
Following the launch in Thailand, the company will introduce the service in China -- its second lab will be in Beijing. After that, the service will go to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines by the end of this year.
Weerawatch Wanamkang, consultant of Imagene Labs Thailand, noted that there is huge potential in Thailand and the company now is in discussion with local business partners like gyms and spas.
"Now there is a lot of data, but it's Western data, we know this limitation. We continually strive to keep up with the latest developments in the field of Wellness Genomics, to provide consumers with up-to-date information. We continue to develop more types in other areas, adding more genes and securing more Asian data, reflecting Asian skin and Asian nutrition," said the doctor.
Imagene's DNA test kit. Photo courtesy of Imagene Labs