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Subscription-based supplement company Vitagene raises $5.5M

The company patient DNA and lab results to allow physicians to personalize supplements

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
February 17, 2016
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/435b

(On February 23rd, Vator will be holding its second annual Splash Health event at the Kaiser Center in Oakland. Speakers will include Vijay Pande, who runs Andreessen Horowitz's $200 million healthtech fund; Ali Diab, CEO of Collective Health; Helmy Eltoukhy, Founder & CEO of Guardant Health; and Ted Tanner, Co-founder & CTO of PokitDok. Get your tickets here, before they jump up next week!)

Sadly, my girlfriend, who I am about to celebrate my 10th anniversary with in less than a month, has been battling a very serious chronic illness for a number of years. It's been hard and difficult on many levels, but the biggest and most frustrating thing has to be how hard it has been for her to find a treatment that will help.

After trying conventional medicine, she has since turned to supplements to help battle her illness. The problem with supplements, though, is that they can sometimes seem like a shot in the dark. Which ones to take, and how much, are incredibly hard to gauge.

That is the problem that Vitagene is trying to solve. It utilizes patient DNA, lab results, and lifestyle information, as well as a knowledge base of research data, to empower physicians with the ability to personalize supplements. 

The company announced on Wednesday that it has raised $5.5 million in seed funding. The round was led by Spectrum 28, with additional investors that include Viking Global Investors; Illumina, Inc.; Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer of Netflix; Ken Goldman, SVP and Chief Financial Officer at Yahoo; and venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Yuri Milner.

The San Francisco-based Vitagene has released its first product, a highly personalized supplementation regimen for its members, which is offered through its partnering physicians.

"For physicians, keeping up with the latest medical developments to deliver personalized health solutions for their patients is nearly impossible and a major burden on their time," Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO and co-founder of Vitagene, told me. "For patients, making decisions that are right for their own body and lifestyle can be challenging,a as most supplementation is no more than a 'best guess' and what is ideal for maintaining health."

With Vitagene,  those same physicians receive actionable reports generated through Vitagene’s web-based dashboard and proprietary algorithm, while the individual patients receive a membership subscription for monthly supplements, tailored to their unique health profile.

One example of how a physician and patient might use it would be a bariatric surgery patient, whose body would change dramatically in the first year after surgery, and where much of their regimen is centered around taking the right supplements.

"We are able to monitor this closely, and collect subjective and objective data from their feedback and experience. The data goes into the platform and adjusts their supplementation regimen accordingly. It is dynamic and responsive to the individual," Maghsoodnia explained. 

In Vitagene’s initial test market of San Jose, more than 70 percent of bariatric surgeons have adopted the platform.

With other supplement companies, the regimen is not dynamic, and is based on guesswork, not science. Likewise, with genetics companies, patients get insights, but they are not actionable. Vitagene aims to give both.

"With Vitagene, an individual’s regimen is based on a knowledge base of the most up-to-date, quality-vetted research and an algorithm that takes into account  genetics, family history, blood labs, and lifestyle," said Maghsoodnia. "

"So, members can be certain that their supplement regimen is not only high quality and safe, but it's tailored to their individual optimal health. Furthermore, if an influencing health factor changes in your life, you aren’t stuck with bottles full of supplements you will never take."

While the company has not formally calculated ROI, it projects benefits to overall health.

"Every turn has been designed around compliance, making things hassle-free and more convenient. Members make decisions around their optimal nutritional needs, which increases the likelihood of better results which feeds a feedback loop that increases compliance. The more likely you are to be compliant, the more likely you are to be healthy. The healthier you are, the better equipped you are to prevent sickness," Maghsoodnia said.

It also plans to save time by eliminating hours spent in the supplement aisle or taking a trip to the store, as well as figuring out which supplement is the best quality by researching supplements and reading articles. It also takes away the time that has to be spent updating a regiment, separating and packing supplements for a trip, and, most importantly of all, less time going to the doctor because you are sick.

The funding will be used to expand the team, specifically in sales and marketing, as well as to continue to invest in building customized engagement programs for members to obtain optimal health.

"The engagement programs we are developing are centered around compliance. What we have learned from a wide variety of medical specialties is that compliance is one of the biggest challenges that physicians face. Even if a doctor gets a patient well, if that patient falls off of their routine, they become sick again," Maghsoodnia told me.

"A patient engagement program that marks progress and results in a way that they understand typically correlates to increased compliance and wellness. We provide the contextual knowledge about their health through multiple touch points."

Founded in 2014, the company is also quickly. It is panning to roll out to new markets in its next phase and, in the past 30 days alone, platform adoption by physicians has increased 200% month over month.

With the United States seeing a healthcare shift from disease management to overall wellness, the company believes that is in a unique position to help people reach and maintain peak nutritional and health through targeted, actionable wellness and smarter supplementation.

"We see an opportunity for managing people's overall health and well-being, rather than addressing just specific diseases. The future of personalized medicine brings with it substantial clinical benefits for patients-- providing accurate and complete information to assist with transitions of care, patient treatment, and public health reporting -- but it is the job of emerging companies, like Vitagene, to build products that make it easy for physicians to fulfill this vision," said Maghsoodnia.

"We believe that consumers in the US are already consuming nutritional supplements. We would like to improve their consumption and tailor it to their needs. They are already spending money on their health. We want to help them actually become healthier."