LifeNome is an Award-winning Precision Health AI company that leverages biological, physiological, and behavioral data to hyper-personalized needs assessments and wellness interventions in the preventative health, nutrition, fitness, insurance and personal care industries. In this interview, CEO Ali Mostashari discusses the benefits of precision medicine and reveals his revolutionary views on the future of preventative healthcare.
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
I’m an MIT Ph.D. with master’s degrees in biotechnology, engineering, and system science. I’m in the top 20 cited scholars in complexity science in the world. My co-founder Raya Khanin, Ph.D., graduated from the Weizmann Institute in Israel. She is in the top 10 cited scholars in translational bioinformatics in the world. My other co-founder, Mario Storga, Ph.D., is in the top 20 cited scholars in semantic networks in the world. We’re very science-oriented people with more than 200,000 citations collectively as a group.
LifeNome operates in an area called Precision Health, which is the preventative stage before Precision Medicine. While precision medicine focuses on what particular drugs are good for you and how you should be treated once you have a disease, precision health is about the choices we make while we still can, to avoid becoming ill.
We look at different layers of data on various aspects of individuals’ lives that can contribute to the potential onset of diseases. Based on that, we create assessments and personalized lifestyle recommendations. This includes nutrition, exercise, skin and hair care, and other areas of well-being.
We use biological data, which may include DNA or microbiome data. In some cases, later on, we may start looking at RNA or proteomics, depending on how well the economics work out in the future.
We can also take physiological data from wearable devices such as smart watches, SPO2 meters, glucose monitoring devices, or heart rate meters, as well as lifestyle, environmental and cultural data.
Cultural preferences are quite important in personalization. . If you show a devoutly religious Jewish or Muslim person a dish with bacon in itת even if the AI thinks it’s good for their overall health, it will not go across well.
You can personalize things like nutrition, fitness, sleep and stress management, immune system response, aging, skincare, and many other areas. We use artificial intelligence not just to look at associations, but at what combination of risk factors can create a particular trait assessment. Based on that, you can assess a person’s needs, and match them with particular products and services. In some cases, we may recommend custom formulas be made for a particular person.
On top of that, we’re also a B2B company. We run an analytics platform and work with enterprises to provide them with analytics personalization capability. Once a user profile is created, LifeNome can give more than 100,000 different outputs about a person’s nutritional needs, taking their biological, physiological, and behavioral data into consideration.
We have partners for the DNA testing part, which is the core of our business. Then, on the B2B front, we have partners in the insurance, healthcare, biotech, and pharma sectors, as well as consumer enterprises such as Pepsi and Unilever.
We’re headquartered in New York City, with offices in Europe and Asia. We operate in 14 countries and have received lots of awards, including global health challenges like PepsiCo Greenhouse Accelerator, the World Economic Forum global innovator, Zurich World Innovation Championship, Johnson&Johnson quickfire, and many others.
Here’s a broad overview of LifeNome’s business model:
How do you use the data you collect, and what are you hoping to achieve from it?
We take all the data we have about a person and use an AI algorithm to assess their needs in terms of vitamins, minerals, and metabolism. We create a comprehensive assessment and recommend particular nutrition products that are already on the market and suggest how they should be used.
If I was a LifeNome user and I wanted to personalize my nutrition, I would first provide my DNA data. I would also add some information about myself with regards to eating preferences and daily habits which the system can take into consideration.
For example, if a person is vegetarian, assuming they probably don’t have enough B12 because they’re not getting animal proteins, we’d look at what substitutes we can offer that fit with their overall profile.
If the user is a surfer, LifeNome would assume that they probably have a high UV exposure and at the same time, they might have good vitamin D intake. Following those lines, an active lifestyle changes one’s nutritional needs, so they might have higher protein requirements. Likewise, people in urban or polluted environments might want to add anti-inflammatory foods to their diet. All of these are examples of lifestyle factors that are all part of the assessment.
In the next stage of the analysis, we look at the DNA profile. It might suggest, for example, that they have a higher risk of having issues with Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Magnesium, or Vitamin E. Largely dictated by our genome, each of us processes different micronutrients and macronutrients differently. If processing is impaired, there’s a risk that we will not be able to get enough of the elements we consume by just taking the average FDA Daily Values (DV).
Next, LifeNome shows you products based on compatibility with your body. It ranks the supplements based on how important they are to you at your current stage in life. It allows you to view only products that were identified as suitable to meet your particular needs and deficiencies, and see how they can complete your diet.
It might indicate, for instance, that what you added to the cart impacts three out of your five deficiencies. If you want to complete all of them, you might want to add another product, which LifeNome will recommend.
We want to get away from traditional product marketing. Instead of promoting a particular set of products, we want to show products that actually meet your needs, regardless of brand, price, or profitability. If a product is not helpful to a person, we’re not going to recommend it. It’s a bit anti-capitalistic, but we try to look for ways to make it as interesting for corporations as it is for consumers.
By doing this, we empower the individual. We don’t just tell them what disease they might get in the future, we give them actionable insights into what they can do to affect that predisposition and be able to cope with it.
What can you tell us about your COVID risk factors test?
We test your genetic predispositions for both your vulnerability to COVID and the severity of the virus if you get a Corona infection. It tells you what are the likelihoods of you being hospitalized or requiring ICU in case you get Corona.
Two sets of risk factors go into this equation. One is epidemiological, which is your lifestyle and the health conditions that you know of, and the other part is the genetic risk factors that could impact your health in the future, even you’re not at an age or physical condition that impose any known risks.
Based on COVID patient data, we trained our AI to look at what are the actual genetic variations that contribute to Covid. We were part of a consortium of 400 organizations that did significant research on it. We’ve added it into our commercial solution under the name COVIDSpare. If you already have DNA data from 23&Me, Ancestry, or Family Tree DNA, you can upload it and get your assessment.
How easy is it for a layperson to use your platform?
We give our users some genetic science background. We show them the contributing genetic variations that impact their predispositions and metabolic pathways. You can also see the citations of studies that underlie these genes and read through those papers.
After the analysis, we move onto the actionable side of things.
On the food front, we have more than 1.3 million recipes. Of course, you can change your preferences anytime, for example, if you decide to remove dairy from your diet. You get recipes that tell you what is good for you and how it impacts you.
Imagine you could get breakfast, lunch, and dinner recommendations with nutrition facts and eating tips that are personalized just for you.
If you have trans fats sensitivity because of carb overconsumption potential or because you have a low protein intake risk, you’ll have insights on what your risk actually is and how the products we’re recommending are supposed to minimize that risk.
When we recommend a particular exercise, we tell you why we recommend it. If an individual has the potential for joint injury, but their aerobic performance is high and they are flexible, we’d recommend exercise that isn’t stressful on the joints.
We provide many different actionable insights on how you can leverage not just your DNA, but the combination of your DNA with your lifestyle and environment to do the personalization.
How do you keep user data private?
There are two aspects of data use that we emphasize: the regulatory aspect and the ethical aspect.
On the regulatory aspect, we comply with global privacy acts like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA. Your personal data is your own and it’s all encrypted. The only person who has access to that encryption is the user. Even I, as the CEO of LifeNome, wouldn’t have access to anyone’s personal data. That’s all encrypted and the keys are with the user. That’s on the more regulatory side.
On the ethical aspect, our perspective is that research on anyone’s data should be based on active consent. Active consent is never buried in a legal agreement. It allows people to understand what they’re giving their data for, how it will be used, and how it will not be used.
In most cases, we have an opt-in checkbox rather than an opt-out one. Opt-out generally relies on people not opting out, whereas opt-in is an active part where you agree to let us use your de-identified data for research purposes. We use your data in a way that makes it impossible for anyone to know it’s you.
Your data is used as an AI aggregate. No human will ever see it because, in the end, we use the insights, not individual data.
As part of the World Economic Forum, we’re involved in a campaign that calls for treating people as citizens rather than consumers. It’s the difference between subjects and objects. If you treat people as consumers, you’re looking at them as money-making machines. When you look at citizens, you’re looking at how you can serve them.
Ethically speaking, we tend to think it’s very short-sighted of companies like Facebook to treat people as objects because, at some point, it backfires. That is why we advocate active consent.
Who is your typical customer?
People in their 30s, 20s, or younger are very empowered by data and information. They are over-stimulated with ads and don’t respond to them anymore. They don’t even trust reviews, because they’re all fake until proven otherwise.
For those folks, the only way to go forward is science. Science has no bias. It is at the disposal of the citizen to do what they will with it. It’s going to be a very different paradigm than what we’ve been seeing over the past five decades. Like an addiction, it’s not easy to change.
How do you envision the future of health-based consumerism?
In around 20 minutes from now, I will be at the World Economic Forum presenting exactly that. I think the future will focus on preventative health. Food and cosmetics corporations will have a huge role to play in building the healthcare of the future.
Let’s not sell people soda cans full of sugar, because we are creating a problem that later on needs to be addressed by the healthcare system. That way of marketing manipulation is the exact opposite of what people need.
It would be much cheaper if Pepsi or Coca-Cola and other companies that are currently contributing to huge problems took their billions of dollars and invested in really good nutrition. They have the power to turn things around for billions of people.
Capitalism has a very condescending perspective on the entire world population, they just need to change their perspective towards humanity and still be proud and profitable.
When you reduce your manipulation and reduce your disregard, you can create a meaningful connection. That’s the kind of relationship that needs to evolve between companies and consumers. Not manipulative, controlling relationships driven by the ability to spend billions of dollars on advertising, but an equal partnership that allows them to understand your needs and innovate for you. It’s a completely different paradigm.
People are not helpless, they’ve just been disempowered over time. At some stage, they will start saying no to harmful ingredients in their diet, and those companies will become irrelevant.
That trend is going to catch up with them at some point, the same way that fossil fuel companies like BP are now turning to renewable energy. They could make billions of dollars in preventative health by becoming partners with people, instead of going against them. This calls for innovation.
A US study found that the number of pregnant women with hypertensive disorders had increased by 100% in just 20 years, all attributed to diabetes and high sugar intake, driven by the products we consume.
Nutrition companies can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Healthcare is a very lucrative business, but preventative healthcare can be as well. They can save the healthcare system a lot of money by not creating the problem in the first place.
We are in contact with top manufacturers in the drug industry and advocate for prevention rather than selling drugs whenever we can. Don’t try to make money off people’s fear, build on people’s hope. Empower them, make them more powerful, make them more energetic, give them more chances.