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Twelve years ago, South Africans were doing expensive DNA health tests, sending them overseas, with no practitioners locally who could advise from or work with these results. While South Africa had the technology and the skillset, it lacked the awareness of the healthcare advances that were being made possible by the Human Genome Project. Dr Danny Meyersfeld saw a gap and started DNAlysis Biotechnology in 2007, creating DNA tests to look at health and diet and working with registered practitioners on the tests he was able to offer. With a PhD in molecular biology, Meyersfeld started training practitioners, giving them clinical context to the tests and the results. They could then assist patients understand the research, and make better health decisions, based on science, not assumptions.
In their earlier days, DNAlysis spent time developing the testing facilities and reporting methods, as well as educating local doctors. Much ground was gained when focus was extended to dieticians for whom nutrigenomics (the interaction of genetics and nutrition) was a natural fit.
Towards the end of 2013, by chance Meyersfeld met Chris Moore, an equally passionate healthcare provider, and founder of Nordic Laboratories in Denmark. The company offers assessments for functional medicine providers in the areas of food allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal dysfunction, autism, gastrointestinal conditions, detoxification, genetics and cardiovascular problems.
DNAlysis and Nordic were a natural fit and they set up a joint venture called DNAlife in 2015. DNAlysis then became the supplier of genetic tests for most European countries serviced by Nordic Laboratories.
One of the company’s most impressive endorsements comes from Dr Mark Hyman, head of the Functional Medicine Unit at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio where there is a nine-month waiting list from patients around the world. Hyman says that DNAlysis Health reports are “a great option to individualise your approach to optimise your health ….it tells us what to do, what nutrients to give you, what form of the nutrients, how much to give you, so it’s really helpful”.
Currently, DNAlysis now tests for weight management, chronic disease risk management, athletic performance, diet, skin, oestrogen, mental health and pharmacogenomics (the interaction of genetics and pharmaceuticals). They’re recognised internationally, and their reports are available in more than 30 countries. “We’re in a space where we’re helping other labs with their result interpretations. Also, starting early meant we were able to path the way – showing the industry what was to come, and what to expect from the nutrigenomics industry.”
From the initial team of three employees, there are now 15 working from their ISO accredited laboratory in Johannesburg. Last year they created almost 20 000 reports, some of which translated in one of 10 languages, for clients in countries such as Sweden, New Zealand, Peru, United Kingdom and the USA. DNAlysis have offices in London, Denmark and Finland. There are now genetic testing companies in the USA and Europe that are licensing this intellectual property from DNAlysis for their own genetic reporting.
Meyersfeld isn’t resting yet. He believes that DNAlysis is only at the beginning in terms of the potential market for genetic testing. He says it’s an exciting time because they’re working on projects now that will result in the seamless integration of genetic tests into clinical medicine, enabling early identification of risk markers, personalised intervention strategies and enhanced health outcomes.
Always on his agenda too is the continued training of medical practitioners, and testing more genes.
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