23andMe Partners with Lark Health to Use Gene Tests in Weight Loss App

This week, consumer DNA-testing company 23andMe Inc. announced a partnership with Lark Health, an AI coaching service app that gives users guidance on weight loss and diabetes prevention. This partnership will allow customers to use genetic data pertaining to wait into the existing Lark weight management system.

“This was born from our desire to get our customers to do more with their genetics,’’ said Emily Drabant-Conley, 23andMe’s vice president of business development.

This partnership puts 23andMe in position to expand their services to giving personalized advice on overall health and family history. Those supporting this genetically driven approach to personalizing medicine are optimistic about the potential outcome, while critics feel that these tools lack evidence-based results to support their use.

“The idea is good, but without the proof of peer-reviewed publications with prospective study, we have no knowledge whether these algorithms have any benefit,’’ claimed Eric Topol, a geneticist at Scripps Research Institute.

23andMe’s rebuttal is that their actions are simply bettering the already successful weight loss coach app. Lark’s weight management and diabetes programs let AI coaches track food intake, sleep, and exercise to give the consumer meaningful and personalized advice on meeting health-related goals. The individualized app gives the user the option to message their AI coach and inquire whether or not they should eat certain things at that time.

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“Genetics are really motivating,’’ said Drabant-Conley. “They’re personal, so people take suggestions more seriously.’’

23andMe has expressed previous interest in turning their genetic reports into meaningful advice, with their 100,000 person study between DNA and success with dieting success beginning last year. The end goal of this study was to eventually use it to provide personalized weight-loss advice.

Lark’s AI health coach currently has over 2 million users, and their diabetes-prevention program is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and researchers to yield service at least on par with human coaching.

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“You get the facts in 23andMe’s report, but real behavior change is harder,’’ said Julia Hu, Lark CEO. “What we did is to take the results, not just the markers but the intervention most relevant to a person, and serve it up at the right time.’’

Lark currently charges users a monthly fee of $20, and if they opt for sharing of genetic data, the apps incorporate data from eight 23andMe reports. Amongst these reports are a weight profile of people with similar genetic makeup, how strong their sense is for bitter foods, and sleep tendencies.

Lark makes recommendations pertaining to sleep and diet based on DNA data, and hopefully will become very personalized to the user via the AI over time.

Source: Bloomberg

Jack holds a biology degree from Penn State University, and has a keen interest in how new medical technologies are changing the future of healthcare. Reach out to Jack if you have a compelling story idea or with feedback about past articles.