INNOVATION SPOTLIGHT: Health startup offers personalized fitness and nutrition based on DNA

Paul Mercante

It’s beach season: the time of year when many pursue the ideal “beach body.”

However, with obesity rates rising globally, it has become more important than ever to encourage healthy living year-round. One-third of the world’s population is obese or overweight, costing billions in health care dollars each year. Preventive measures, like diet and exercise plans, are often touted as effective ways to address this global epidemic — but how do you know which plan is right for you?

Gene Blueprint hopes to address this problem with their personalized genetic fitness and nutrition programs. Genetics play a role in how health and wellness initiatives affect the body. Using patented gene scores and a sophisticated algorithm, Gene Blueprint compares a client’s genetics to genome-wide data. This enables the team to create highly personalized plans.

“Our algorithms integrate information from hundreds of thousands of variants,” explains president and co-founder Paul Mercante. “This helps us make evidence-based recommendations on the most effective nutrition and exercise strategies.”

Humans are 99.5 per cent genetically similar to one another, but millions of genetic variants lie in the remaining half percentage. This percentage reveals everything from eye colour to physical endurance. Gene Blueprint’s proprietary method, powered by machine learning, computes genetic scores with astounding accuracy. After clients complete a DNA collection kit, detailed fitness and nutrition plans are customized and shared along with the complete genetic results.

The Gene Blueprint kit is an example of “commercial genetics.” More companies are entering this market with cutting-edge consumer products that use genetic information to improve daily life.

“Using the power of science and genetic data, we are committed to making healthy living achievable. Our clients have shared that our personalized plans keep them motivated and engaged,” says Mercante.

Ultimately, the team wants to make a big impact.

“We hope our preventive health care measures will reduce the burden on health care systems locally and globally,” he says.

The team also sees value in Hamilton, and wants to position the city as a place to innovate in commercial genetics. To date, they’ve had impressive traction in the health care space, participating in high profile initiatives like Apps for Health and the new Hamilton Health Sciences Innovation Exchange.