In a shift from traditional thinking that lumps together all cases of obesity, researchers are increasingly proving that a combination of genetic and environmental factors have resulted in several distinct forms of the condition, each requiring a different treatment.
Identifying which of those obesity phenotypes an individual falls under is the goal of a new blood test from Phenomix Sciences, which hopes to improve outcomes by providing deeper insights into the internal and external causes of obesity.
The MyPhenome test is built around technology developed at the Mayo Clinic and exclusively licensed to Phenomix in a newly signed deal. The technology uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze a patient’s genomics, metabolomics and hormone levels to determine which of four obesity phenotypes most closely matches their individual makeup.
The four phenotypes identified by the startup are said to encompass more than 90% of obesity cases.
Phenomix has named the four subsets Hungry Brain, Hungry Gut, Emotional Hunger and Slow Burn. They indicate, respectively, a blocker that keeps the brain from knowing when to stop eating, a need to continue eating between meals to feel satisfied, the use of eating to manage positive or negative emotions, and a low metabolic rate and activity level compared to caloric intake.
Once a patient’s phenotype has been identified, their physicians can prescribe individualized treatments, including programs, drugs, devices or surgeries. A recently published study by Phenomix found that phenotype-specific obesity treatment plans resulted in nearly double the weight loss of traditional all-inclusive treatment plans over the course of one year.
“There is simply no more pressing challenge facing healthcare providers today than the treatment of obesity, as it is an underlying condition of so many physical and mental health complications,” CEO Mark Bagnall said. “But until now, obesity treatment has centered around ineffective ‘one-size-fits-all’ therapies.”
Bagnall continued, “Phenomix founders have invested decades of research to discover a new way to classify obesity using each patient’s unique phenotype, resulting in precision treatment.”
With the signing of its exclusive licensing deal with the Mayo Clinic, Phenomix expects to begin rolling out the MyPhenome test by the end of 2021, once its CLIA laboratory accreditation process is complete.
Phenomix was founded in 2017 by Andres Acosta and Michael Camilleri while they were both physicians, scientists and professors at the Mayo Clinic. Though the company has yet to report any venture funding rounds, in 2019, it raised more than $288,000 via equity crowdfunding website Wefunder.