​Ukrainian startup makes affordable DNA tests for healthcare advice

Ukrainian Ph. D. biologist Dr. Oleksandr Savsunenko says he can tell if you’re a night owl or an early bird, whether you should become a vegetarian, and even if you’re likely to live to a ripe old age.

He finds the answers to these and other questions in a person’s DNA. Through his startup Titanovo, he’s offering the public a DNA-testing service that he says can help people answer such questions themselves to improve their lifestyle and general health.

Savsunenko launched his company in 2014 when he teamed up with a group of scientists from Kyiv Gerontology Institute who study genetic engineering, and business developer Corey McCarren. Inspired by 23andMe, the U.S. company that was the first to sell personal genome tests online, Savsunenko decided to create similar telomere tests that could be done at home.

Telomeres are regions of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of the chromosomes in a person’s DNA. Their length can be an indication of the approximate biological age of a person as well as how long a person has left to live. Telomeres reduce in length as a person ages, and short telomeres indicate a greater risk of developing cancer and other diseases.

Telomere testing kit

Titanovo’s Telomere Testing Kit.

Titanovo’s Telomere Testing Kit is an affordable test that determines the length of this particular section of a person’s DNA. The test also helps doctors figure out whether certain therapies and medicines will be effective for a particular person. The price of the kits, which can be ordered online at www.titanovo.com, range from $125–175.

The kit for $125 provides a customer with basic health metric while the more expensive $175 kit also calculates the client’s chances for longevity.

Clients are sent a kit with tools to take a DNA sample in the comfort of their own home. It doesn’t involve taking a blood sample, or anything that requires medical skills – just a DNA swab taken from the inside of the cheek. The customer then sends the samples back to the lab and waits for the results – and they can track the progress of the testing online.

The company has two offices, in Ukraine and in the United States. The Ukrainian department sells cheaper and simpler tests at www.titanovo.com.ua. Their tests help choose an optimal diet and physical exercise regime. The price for a standard test is Hr 1,000 ($ 38), while for the extended test, which also tests whether a person can be vegetarian, whether they are lactose intolerant, and whether they are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, costs Hr 1,500 ($57).

Savsunenko says that the idea of taking DNA samples at home is rather new for Ukrainians, and so far the company’s U.S. department is more successful. In 2015, Titanovo sold more than 1,000 kits in the United States, according to him.

The next step for Titanovo will be to create a tool that gives healthcare recommendations based on the results of the tests, Savsunenko says. The company is developing DNA Lifestyle Coach, an application that helps DNA test users make the most effective dietary, fitness, stress management, and dental choices. The app will process large amounts of scientific information about a person’s genome and give highly customized recommendations.

Besides the DNA Lifestyle Coach, Savsunenko is working on two new tests. One will help choose the best type of cosmetics to use while another will help decide which sports is best for a child to take up.

This story first appeared in the Kyiv Post

Topics: International, Startups
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