What motivated you to get involved in the field of personalised nutrition?
“My career started as a clinical dietitian. I was frustrated by the lack of diagnostics available for my patients to understand their health before they were diagnosed with disease. As my career progressed, I found my way into the field of genetics and personalised medicine. I left the field of dietetics in frustration and was conducting pharmacogenomics research when the small inflammation genetics company for whom I was working was purchased by a nutrition company. This jump-started my career in personalisation and it has never been the same!”
What key gaps in the market or gaps in meeting consumer needs did you identify?
“While personalisation and the various -omics testing options were exciting, the early questions were around how we identify or prescribe solutions that were sufficiently differentiated by genotype, phenotype etc. Ultimately, we needed to do more research in order to have a better understanding of the solutions these technologies provided for the consumer, so as not to overwhelm, but inform.
“Also, we need to understand what is going on biochemically with the individual at present and not only rely on genotype to translate actionable information. More recently, it has been clear we have a huge opportunity to differentiate between the needs of males and females in our research and its translation. This offers an opportunity to ensure more precise recommendations that are more helpful and prevent unwanted side effects since biological sex has such a strong effect on physiology.”
What unique nutrition challenges do women face?
“Women make up to 80% of healthcare decisions and 85% of healthcare-related product purchases for their families. However, only 4% of R&D investments are made in women’s health. Unfortunately, only 2% of female-founded companies obtain investments. Midlife women going through their menopause journey feel invisible and yet they have more spending power than ever before. Women experience so many health symptoms related to their hormone cycles for which they have remained silent; and, thus, have gone unnoticed.”
How are new technologies being applied to address many of these challenges?
“At-home wellness testing coupled with digital health platforms and women-informed e-commerce health products are on the rise to deliver easy and efficient self-care options to women.”
How do you see this sector evolving / what new innovations do you see coming to market?
“I see more and more attention being paid to female consumer health and, specifically, the windows of health vulnerability in the female life cycle beyond pregnancy and lactation. These include adolescence, young adulthood and premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, fertility, and menopause and healthy ageing.”
What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?
“I hope the audience appreciates the powerful impact of the female consumer in health and wellness decisions and product purchases; and the amazing knowledge we have in the scientific wellness and longevity space to help. We need to transition the image of the female consumer, and in particular, midlife, menopausal women, from invisible to invaluable. I hope the audience appreciates the importance of emphasising scientific wellness research in women’s health and is inspired to encourage and conduct more research in this space.
“While women’s health includes pregnancy and lactation, there is much more to the story and plenty of opportunity to make a difference for women along their lifecycle. Finally, it is important to highlight that men and women need to come together to collaborate on the topic of women’s health, and we also need to acknowledge men’s health as its own special discipline that also warrants attention. We no longer need to study men and women as one statistical morph. We can separate the data and appreciate the differences.”
Finally, what do you hope to take away from attending this industry-focused event?
“I hope to make some strong contacts in my network to support PhenomX Health. We are a young startup, only two years old. We are making great strides in building an amazing personalised nutrition, digital platform for women. We have an amazing team donating their time and we need investment money to move the company forward.”
Dr. Colleen Fogarty Draper, the co-founder and CEO of PhenomX Health, will give a presentation at Vitafoods 2023 entitled ‘Precision nutrition, scientific wellness and longevity for women’. She has over 25 years of experience in personalised nutrition. In addition to founding PhenomX Health, she founded the nutrition science translation consultancy NutraUHealth.