They're usually progressive, chronic and have a 'fatal' ring to them. Yet, health issues classified as 'lifestyle diseases' are on the rise and there's little we can do about that. Or can we?
A start-up named XCODE claims it has the answer to this life-altering question. This Chennai-based company, founded by Dr Saleem Mohammed, uses state-of-the-art rapid genetic testing and analysis to diagnose an individual's tendency to an array of lifestyle diseases. All you have to do is provide a saliva sample for DNA analysis, which uses genetic markers to reveal your disease risks. "Our DNA can provide an insight into our health. We use a person's genetic make-up to empower him with knowledge," says Dr Mohammed.
How did it all begin?
A researcher in the field of bioinformatics, Dr Mohammad had always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, even when he signed up for his PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Taking a cue from the much talked-about company 23andMe, a US-based personal genomics and biotech company, he began thinking about using DNA analysis to identify genetic disease threats and offering a solution to prevent or combat them. After some digging, he found there was no company in India that offered these services. But the real clincher which propelled Dr Mohammed to act on his plan came in 2008, when his mother was diagnosed with diabetes.
So Dr Mohammed started work on a specific algorithm which could process DNA data and detail disease risks from an individual's genetic make-up. He founded XCODE in December 2010. A few months later, he was joined by R Narayanan, an angel investor who came on board as co-founder. An amount of $250,000 was invested as seed capital.
Apart from predicting the likely diseases one can also seek help towards keeping these diseases at bay or preventing them. Through their extensive data-interpretation techniques XCODE develops customized nutrition charts and exercise plans, along with suggested lifestyle changes that are best suited for you.
Customers can also store their clinical data on the Cloud - such as blood test results, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, along with their genetic data which the company provides. They can therefore access this critical information any time, anywhere, and use it to track their physiological parameters over time.
Xcode has an online store through which consumers can login and create a user account. This store is linked with a secure payment gateway through which payments can be made via debit or credit cards and netbanking.
The company, is largely engaged in Direct-to-Customer business and charges its customers a one-time fee of Rs 10,000 for the genetic analysis. This also includes the corresponding report on their tendency to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart problems coronary heart disease and stroke.
In order to reach out to the right clientele, which is of the age group 25 to 45, as much as 70 per cent of XCODE's costs are allotted towards marketing activities. This includes Social Media Marketing, Google ad networks and direct email marketing. "This is a new technology, we are having to raise awareness about the benefits offered. And so most of our spend is towards marketing," adds Dr Mohhamed. They have not yet broken even.
XCODE, which currently has 50 clients, soon plans to include an assessment of cancer risk in its analysis. It is looking at partnerships with corporate companies and hospitals, and are suggesting that they include their DNA analysis in their health check-ups.
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