Staying healthy and fit can no longer simply be measured in terms of calories eaten and calories burned. Urbanization has brought with it a host of lifestyle diseases and disorders that call for a paradigm shift in how we plan for a lifetime of good health and peace of mind.
Dr. Saleem Mohammed, CEO and Co-founder of Xcode Life Sciences, tells Medindia how the
company's Lifelong Wellness program helps individuals know from an
analysis of their DNA, their predisposition to four major health issues
threatening the world population today-diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases
and stroke. Post DNA analysis, the clients are guided through a
step-by-step process that prevents the onset of disease and disorders, helps
them eat right and stay healthy for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Saleem leads Xcode's progress in the R&D space, guides
strategic ideas around the field of bioinformatics, so people get the
opportunity to explore the world of genomic tools and applications and avail
the benefits of life science analytics.
Q. What prompted you to launch this Lifelong Wellness program?
A. I was doing my doctoral studies in
Bioinformatics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US and around that
time Dr. James D. Watson put his genome sequence online "to encourage the
development of an era of personalized medicine, in which information contained
in our genomes can be used to identify and prevent disease and to create
individualized medical therapies."
This was followed by news
about Google Co-founder Sergey Brin's investment in his wife Anne Wojcicki's
genome screening company 23andMe and how he learnt from the DNA analysis of his
saliva that he has a mutation on the LRRK2 gene, a variation known as G2019S
which ups Parkinson's risk in some families. Brin's mother has Parkinson's and
the mutation. Brin went on to blog how he cut coffee, smoking and took to
diving along with some lifestyle changes to prevent the disorder.
News of genetic
testing for health and disease was very exciting and I realized this could be
applied for the benefit of people in India who are unaware they are heading
toward health crises. My mother was diagnosed with diabetes in her forties and
I wasted no time in launching Lifelong Wellness program from our company's
platform. Xcode Life Sciences got incubated in the Vellore Institute of
Technology, South India this year and subsequently moved to Chennai.
Q. How different is Lifelong Wellness program from a Master
Health Check up?
A. In this Lifelong Wellness program you are
informed of your health risks based on a DNA analysis. A genetic counselor and
a nutritionist advise you on what diet works for you depending on whether you
metabolize carbohydrates slowly or proteins slowly, for example. On the contrary,
health predictions using physical parameters are still subject to trial and
error. Master health check ups are not custom made - it is as if one package
fits all. DNA testing is personalized and caters to each individual in a unique
Q. Tell us how this program is packaged to suit every
A. When a person is enrolled in Lifelong
Wellness program the saliva is collected and we send it to a third party
service provider who sends us the lab report. Our research facility analyses
and interprets the raw data. We use DNA markers called "snips" and we use the
latest in the field. For diabetes alone we have close to 82 markers as recent
as 2012. A genetic counselor will take the client through the report and a
nutritional counselor will suggest meal plans and recipes for healthy eating.
Suggestions for practical fitness plans and life style modifications are also
The program has
several components, a few of which are:
• Life Sight - A basic DNA assessment
that gives your health risks so you can work changes in your lifestyle and lead
a healthier life
• Life Food -
Personalized 'DNA diet plan' based on your current lifestyle
• Wellness on Mobile - Daily reminders
via SMS and an audio clipping to help you stay healthy
• Life Fit - Flexible, versatile,
personalized fitness plan you can implement at home, or on the move
• Life Track - Offers cloud based online
service to store clinical info and progress on nutrition and fitness plan
• Life Digest - A monthly newsletter that
sends health updates
Q. How well is this
wellness program received in India? In your interaction with people do you see
a shift in health awareness and need for dieting and lifestyle modifications?
Personalized nutrition is new to many, but people are interested in this new
wellness concept and open to its practical applications. We have packaged the
wellness program in a way that is easy to understand and implement. Going by
numbers, we have an excellent response so far. Ideally, young adults who are
beginning their career would benefit from this wellness program. If they know
their genetic makeup, they can be cautious, eat right and stay healthy when
they get married and raise a family. Healthy eating, for example is a
collective responsibility in a family. Meal plans should be devised for the
health benefit of each family member. Children can be trained from a young age
to choose from healthy food and lifestyle options.
For me, even a compliance rate of 5% of the population is a huge
success considering the number of persons who can stay healthy using this
program. Yes, it is a challenge to change the way people think about wellness.
Even the medical community is only now gradually coming to terms with genomic
sequencing and personalized therapies.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish in the near future and
what is your vision?
A. My vision is improved human life and a
disease free India. We have begun creating awareness among people on the
various practical ways to stay healthy and achieve a lifetime of wellness.
We're working to discover mutational causes of
at least two diseases, to unseat India as the diabetic capital of the world and
to become the largest repository of genetic and lifestyle information. Lifelong
Wellness by Xcode Life Sciences is enroute to becoming a leader in affordable
personalized healthcare in India.
industry is India has come a long way from being a sector involving just
hospitals, doctors, patients, medicine and medical insurance. People are
willing to learn more than just the basics to avoid living a disease ridden
life, if they can help it. With the healthcare industry tuned to help people
learn more about their propensity to certain diseases that's in their genes and
guide them to eat right and stay healthy, the quality of life is bound to
increase making India a healthier nation.