Epigenetic age-testing market hots up

Company behind myDNAge is already profitable and promoting epigenetic tests to monitor lifestyle interventions for increased Longevity.

When it comes to biological age measurement, genetic (DNA) testing is quickly being overtaken by epigenetic testing. This is because our DNA is not fundamentally changed by our environment and lifestyle – things like diet and exercise, or exposure to smoke and UV rays. But these factors unquestionably have an impact on our Longevity, which is where epigenetics come in. Epigenetic testing also measures the effects of lifestyle and exposure, which are recorded as “tags” on our DNA and affect how our genes function.

The market for epigenetic testing is an increasingly busy one, and we’ve already covered companies in this space like Elysium and Chronomics in recent weeks. With its myDNAge testing kits, California-based Epimorphy claims to be “the first company to offer an epigenetic age prediction test to the consumer market.” We spoke to Epimorphy’s director of epigenetics technologies, Dr Yap Chew, to see what’s behind his company’s approach to age measurement.

myDNAge epigenetic
Image courtesy of myDNAge, scientists in the laboratory

Longevity.Technology: What’s the story behind myDNAge?

Dr Chew: Epimorphy founder, Dr Larry Jia, who is also the founder of “The Epigenetics Company” Zymo Research Corporation, came across the Horvath Clock published by Dr Steve Horvath from UCLA in 2013. Dr Jia envisioned that this epigenetic age prediction tool would be a helpful tool for aging research. Thus, Zymo Research gained the exclusive licence from UCLA to commercialize Horvath’s Clock. Additionally, he also believes that this tool will be a good outcome measurement for personal health and wellness management.

However, the DNA methylation detection platform utilized for the Horvath Clock is a low throughput platform (i.e. only able to analyse 8 samples per run) that requires high amounts of DNA. These factors made this an impractical platform for the consumer marketplace.

Zymo Research Corporation is the leader in epigenetics field in which 70% of the published work in DNA methylation analysis (the most well-studied epigenetics marks) uses Zymo Research’s technologies. Thus, Dr Jia decided to invest in R&D to develop a user-friendly high throughput platform that requires only 200 ng of DNA which can be obtained from as little as 2 drops of blood. Additionally, we have added our own aging related CpG sites (>2,000 sites) in our test and take the neighboring effects of the CpG sites into consideration. Thus, the efficiency of age prediction is improved with our platform.

Dr Jia founded Epimorphy in 2017 which introduced the epigenetic age prediction test using this newly developed platform to the consumer marketplace, called the myDNAge Test.


“The median test error for the original Horvath Clock is 3.6 years. Through our research and development efforts we have improved the median test error of the myDNAge Test age prediction to 1.9 years.”


 

Longevity.Technology: Epigenetic testing is an increasingly crowded space – how do you set yourself apart from other companies in this area?

Dr Chew: Epimorphy is the first company to offer an epigenetic age prediction test to the consumer market. The myDNAge Test is based on the principles originally described in the Horvath Clock method and utilizes over 90% of CpG sites found in the original Horvath clock. We provide an updated version of the Horvath clock by adding our own aging related CpG sites (>2000 sites) in order to make a more accurate age prediction. To give our customers a more wholistic view of their aging profiles, we take the neighboring effects of the CpG sites into consideration. The median test error for the original Horvath Clock is 3.6 years. Through our research and development efforts we have improved the median test error of the myDNAge Test age prediction to 1.9 years.


“The reversible and dynamic nature of epigenetic modifications make epigenetic tests … an ideal test to monitor lifestyle interventions.”


 

Longevity.Technology: What is your perspective on the new guidance issued by the Royal College of GPs in the UK about consumer genetic tests?

Dr Chew: Genetic tests provide information on genetic variations and analyze pre-dispositions to disease risks. However, epigenetic tests are different from genetic tests. Epigenetics affect how genes are expressed which changes with age and lifestyle. The reversible and dynamic nature of epigenetic modifications make epigenetic tests, such as the myDNAge Test, an ideal test to monitor lifestyle interventions. Additionally, we have very stringent quality control requirements for our test. For example, our average sequencing coverage is ≥1,000x meaning that we measure each biomarker a minimum of 1,000 times.

Image courtesy of myDNAge, sequencing machines

Longevity.Technology: What are your primary objectives and next key milestones at this point?

Dr Chew: Epimorphy is a company dedicated to personal health and wellness. Our primary objective is to revolutionize the path to healthy aging with our customers by providing actionable guidelines to improve their biological age.

Epimorphy is 100% privately owned and we are funded by organic growth. We are currently well-funded and not seeking to raise additional funding. However, we are actively looking for strategic partners that align with our vision, dedicated to personal health and wellness, and are working towards finding a resolution for healthy aging.

Image credits: myDNAge

 

Danny Sullivan
Contributing Editor Danny has worked in technology communications for more than 15 years, spanning Europe and North America. From bionics and lasers to software and pharmaceuticals – and everything in between – he’s covered it all. Danny has wide experience of technology publishing and technical writing and has specific interest in the transfer from idea to market.

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