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Out of the Frying pan and into the Fire: Academia to Epigenetics Start-up

Out of the frying pan and into the fire; academia to epigenetics start up

First impressions are everything, they say.

Well, first impressions of building a start up are, as expected, not as sexy as media would have it. It is more rewarding, more gritty, more of an emotional rollercoaster. But a rollercoaster where fluttering golden notes dance out of reach and you’re not strapped in. And that’s just three months in, I won’t even try and imagine three years.

But of course we have to, one of biggest mental paradigm shifts for four young founders still raw from wintering in stables of academic is grasping the forward-looking mentality of the entrepreneur. You can’t wait for the data to appear and objectively appraise possible interpretations. The data can be subjective, real time, multidimensional, and most shocking to the scientific brain - speculative.

Although a decade of lectures and labwork may not be all lost, the lean entrepreneur brings scientific method to the madness. The difference being that the very survival of the venture depends on the conclusions, rather than being shelved in a journal. Easier said than done.

But when self doubt sets in and we find ourselves plunging towards oblivion, wondering why we are here and feeling like unqualified imposters, the best antidote ironically lies back in the still corridors of academia. Having a simple scroll through Google Scholar with the right keywords [epigenetics, health, lifestyle] has been more uplifting than any mindfulness or exercise regime since we founded Chronomics.

It doesn’t take long to remind myself that we are doing something novel, groundbreaking, and downright awesome. The personalised health revolution is just around the corner, and thanks to our founders’ expertise in the field we will make sure epigenetics takes its rightful place centre stage.

The three P’s: proactive, preventative, and personalised, are all the rage. From government funded advertising, a health tech revolution, and the data tsunami that will be the 2020’s, everything points to individuals taking more control of their own health. Why? Because the data mirror that is modern life will hold ourselves accountable to preserving our greatest asset (our health, in case you were wondering).

DNA based health tests were pioneered over the last decade. But aside from interesting tidbits about morbidity risks you can’t alter, ancestry you mostly already know, and what type of earwax you have, genetic tests are fundamentally limited by the fact that your DNA by-and-large does not change.

Chronomics is adding a time axis to make DNA testing relevant to the present and future. We are the first company worldwide to offer epigenetic testing, building an AI based platform to leverage the predictive power of DNA methylation biomarkers. This will be the first of the “actionable omics” that will drive the next generation of personalised deep health management.

Making Chronomics a reality means learning to jump out of the skin of a scientist and take control. But the potential to translate science into a value for the wider world is worth the bumpy ride ahead.

Toby Call is a co-founder at Chronomics.

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The Chronomics Epigenetic Test is the first test in the world that allows you to sample the epigenetic information in your DNA in order to improve your health and wellness