Tete-a-tete with Pranav Anam, Founder, The Gene Box

Sudhir Raikar, IIFL | Mumbai | March 16, 201610:08 IST

“Put simply, genetic testing is most useful to individuals who are knowledgeable, curious about their genetic disposition, conscious about their health and who are capable of using this information in a prudent and proactive manner.”

How would you explain genetics in layman’s terms?
Genetics is largely about likelihood, akin to a weather forecast predicting a 60 per cent probability of rain, which means that given the evidence, chances of rain are higher, although there is a 40% chance that it may not rain. However, not all Genetics is like that. Certain genetic conditions called monogenic conditions carry cent per cent likelihood. In certain other conditions, it varies between 99% to 1%. Scientists often combine the likelihood of multiple genes to increase the certainty of likelihood for a certain event. The proper way to interpret genetic likelihood is to develop your awareness of your inborn susceptibilities and tendencies and verify them through other pieces of information to the extent possible, acting on the side of caution.
 
Can you elaborate with an example?
Assuming genetic tests reveal a higher likelihood of diabetes, one should look for family history of diabetes and also monitor blood glucose periodically. They should also take all possible preventive action to keep Diabetes at bay. Not all conditions are easy to spot through family history, like Diabetes. This is where wide-ranging genetic testing such as nutri-genomic profile, fitness profile and profile of other health conditions are highly helpful. Put simply, genetic testing is most useful to individuals who are knowledgeable, curious about their genetic disposition, conscious about their health and who are capable of using this information in a prudent and proactive manner.
 
How big is the genetic testing market?
The Genetic testing market, rapidly moving from a service driven model to product driven model, is expected to touch USD 2.2 billion by 2017. The US represents the largest market for genetic testing worldwide led by the fast growing importance of prognostic and predictive screening. Running parallel to the ‘provider market’, Genetic counseling services are on the rise. Notwithstanding its prolific growth over the years, the genetic testing industry faces two key challenges: one, lack of a fool-proof method to cater to individual needs given the vast differences in genetic structures and two, acute need for standard regulations for the genetic testing process.
 
What is The Gene Box?
The Gene Box (TGB) is India’s first holistic health platform providing cost-effective nutrition and health care solutions and services based on wide-ranging genetic analytics. Genebox procures your saliva sample - in a special kit dispatched and collected from your home - and performs a series of core tests to determine your genetic constitution. Our comprehensive data analysis forms the basis for customized food and fitness recommendations across various age groups and health goals – from schools kids keen to excel in physical activities to senior citizens aspiring for a healthy lifestyle, from sports enthusiasts participating in marathons to professional athletes playing competitive sport.
 
What role does technology play in TGB?
TGB provides information on eight common lifestyle conditions that, proven research shows, are preventable through nutritional, exercise and lifestyle modifications suited to your genotype. Taking the genetic predisposition is crucial to your health plan as no two individuals are alike, except for identical twins although every individual receives DNA from his/her father and mother in equal proportions.
 
We use a technology called Genotyping that utilizes hundreds of DNA markers associated with lifestyle disorders that have been identified using Genome-wide association studies across the world. We process the test data through our unique algorithms to study your genotype and  develop customized food and fitness plans in line with your health goals.
 
Lifestyle diseases include atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke; obesity and type 2 diabetes; and those caused by smoking, alcohol & drug abuse. TGB, unlike most genetic testing players, does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach. Our nutritional and fitness advice is necessarily based on the insights drawn from your genetic predisposition.
 
Genetics technology is a relatively nascent but rapidly evolving field. In the near future, it’s inevitable that most individuals in one way or another would have experienced some level of genetic assessment. Currently, most genetic assessments are based on genotyping, which selectively looks at certain portions of the individual’s genes
 
What makes TGB unique given scores of providers claiming respective USPs?
Currently, the analysis and recommendations of most players in the nutrition and fitness industry are symptomatic in nature (solely focused on physical attributes like the individual’s body type and subjective interpretations of food and fitness habits and tendencies). No analysis is done to gauge whether the recommendations are in line with the individual’s genetic constitution.
 
Genebox does exactly the reverse – it studies the person’s food and fitness specifics in the guiding light of his/her genetic makeup thereby arriving at tailor-made recommendations that are free of generic conclusions or convenient conjectures. We also advise you on lifestyle diseases you are genetically prone to and how to keep them at bay. There are a few players who carry out genetic testing but they are focused on a Lab model that makes testing an end in itself. Genebox adopts a Consumer-centric delivery model, where testing is only a means to an end. We explore and exploit the test results to deliver the desired health results to the end consumer.
 
How does TGB’s USP help the end-consumers?
We are all unique in mind and body... We respond differently to the same diet plans or fitness routines, thanks to our genetic makeup. So when the makeup differs, how can the makeover be the same? TGB helps you identify the root cause of your health problems: if you are overeating, it may be because of the FTO gene that impairs the body’s feeling of fullness and Fibre & Protein-rich diet could help your cause. If you don’t seem to lose fat, your fat genes may be responsible and we can recommend special dietary and weight management program that boosts your fat loss in response to exercise. Your inability to build muscle could have resulted from your genetically low satellite cell activation. TGB can help put you on a highly focused training program, tailored diet and supplement regime in line with your genetic predisposition. TGB caters to the needs of three distinct consumer segments: one, budding sportspersons of schools, colleges and sports academies, two, active Healthcare spenders, organic food shoppers and fitness tracking device users and three, people with lifestyle disorders seeking generic food, fitness and wellness solutions.

 

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