What if your genes could determine upstream whether you are likely to develop certain diseases? This is not science fiction, but the great medical revolution of recent years. More and more start-ups want to analyze the DNA to offer more and more personalized programs and treatments. This is called precision medicine.
“Eating well is good, but it’s not enough! Everyone has an adequate diet! “ This explosion of voice is that of Éric Lameignere. After fifteen years of research and development in the pharmaceutical industry, the PhD student chose to join forces to co-found his MedTech company: FabLife. “We have a goal: to provide personalized nutritional advice in order to be able to do preventive medicine “, Explains the scientific director.
This is why the fifteen dieticians who work with him are based on a technology: genomic analysis. “The principle is simple: on prescription, we perform a DNA analysis which is then sequenced before comparing it with the already well-stocked databases. This allows us to see the different genetic mutations that lead our body to metabolize food in a different way. “
You did not understand anything? Let’s recap: it’s our genes that determine how our bodies get our proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients that keep us alive from all foods. Some mutations in our DNA make this daily work easier or less. Having determined them, some startups now offer dietary supplements or nutritional monitoring to avoid any shortcomings. This is particularly the case with FabLife, then.
“This genomic analysis, in addition to losing weight, can also allow you to eat better to increase fertility, and predict some pathologies for which nutrition is central, such as diabetes or some cardiovascular diseases”, resumes the scientific director.
The advent of precision medicine
Many doctors and health workers are in fact unanimous: in the future medicine will be preventive, but also “precision”. And this is largely thanks to the analysis of our DNA. “A single sequencing will allow all healthcare professionals around a patient to determine which diseases the patient is most likely to develop in the more or less near future. Acting directly could delay the onset of the first symptoms by more than ten years., assures Jean-Marc Holder, director of operations of the Montpellier start-up SeqOne Genomics. Since its incubation in 2015 and its creation in 2017, the company has already raised two funds – € 3 million in March 2019, then € 20 million in January 2022 – to develop and provide doctors with a DNA data analysis. Almost half of university hospitals in France already have it, as do many private clinics. The United States and other industrialized countries are the next markets to be conquered.
“In the history of medicine, before, we mainly fought contagious diseases. From now on, at least in our healthcare system, mortality is mainly due to genetic diseases. Hence the importance of determining the risks as early as possible and proposing to patients the right treatment at the right time through the analysis of genomic datacontinues the director. This is called precision medicine. “
More or less serious projects
In recent years, many start-ups have undertaken the activity of DNA analysis and the development of increasingly customized products. It must be said that the price of sequencing is in free fall. Twenty years ago, the first DNA sequencing cost several billion euros. Today’s most efficient machines can do the same thing in hours and a few hundred dollars. Still banned in France for people when they are recreational, these tests have become widely common across the Atlantic and the Channel, bringing entrepreneurs with more or less serious projects in their wake.
British company NGX – for Nutri-Genetix – therefore offers bespoke smoothies, tailored to your needs in vitamins, fats, minerals and other proteins, once a saliva DNA test is performed. DNAFit offers to invent a personalized fitness program for you by determining – again through DNA analysis – if you are more sensitive to fats, sugars, alcohol and if you have a predisposition to certain diseases or muscle risks. . Why not, after all.
However, some projects leave the experts and professionals we met with caution. This is the case of this project of the Meantime Brewing Company, a London brewery, which offers its customers a personalized beer adapted to their tastes, once a genomic analysis has been carried out. However, Eric Lameignere and Jean-Marc Holder unanimously explain that DNA doesn’t explain everything. In fact, taste is also a social construct that varies according to the family context, the place of birth, etc.
Welcome to Gattaca?
Full-fledged players in this new technology set to revolutionize medicine, they all began to dream of a world where sequencing would be as common as a blood test. But we have to put the whole world in sequence ? “If we want to emphasize preventive medicine rather than cure, then yes, we have to go in that direction. But this would not be possible without important social debates “summarizes Éric Lameignere, aware of the uproar that this idea could arouse and the impact that some works like Welcome to Gattaca.
“Today we barely know 1% of the genomebelieves Jean-Marc Holder. And the development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence will allow us to analyze more and more data on more and more patients. There is still a lot to discover. “