CEO Series

No One Wants Your Spit—Except This M'sian Health Startup That'll Research Your DNA Secrets

  • Advanx Health is a Malaysian healthcare company that offers genetic DNA testing to help customers discover exactly what they physically require in order to remain healthy, and also identify their biggest health risks and how to avert them.
  • The company was founded by Yong Wei Shian and Yen Ping in 2017, both with backgrounds in the pharmacy business.

When it comes to healthcare and well-being, there really isn’t a correct way or set methodology that can guarantee an individual perfect health.

As much as we’d all like to believe that there’s a diet, a fitness regime, or a supplement we can take to keep us at a hundred percent, the reality is that humans are individuals—undeniably unique and therefore responsive to different foods, lifestyles, and environments in their own way.

Yong Wei Shian and Chew Yen Ping—the co-founders of Malaysian genetics technology company Advanx Health—want people to be more aware of this fact. More specifically, they want people to realise that something that works for someone won’t necessarily work for another.

With both having backgrounds in the pharmaceutical industry, they observed that there existed a gap in this area—they found people hardly understood their own bodies, and therefore didn’t understand how best to keep themselves healthy.

Instead, they found people only relying on the cookie-cutter information handed to them by the media—fad diets, fitness trends, superfoods and all manner of medical procedures that promise the world in terms of well-being but so often failing to deliver on that promise.

So in 2017, the two started Advanx Health, a DNA testing company that focuses on helping the general public discover themselves physically and understand how best to keep themselves healthy, even more so than the information you’d get from doing a medical check-up.

The Truth Directly From The Mouth

The overarching concept is simple—when you decide have yourself tested, you begin by obtaining a saliva collection kit (called a DNA Explorer) from Advanx Health either through mail or at one of their authorised distributors.

Next, you need to deposit some of your own saliva into the provided test tube before sending the kit back to Advanx Health (who outsource the samples to secure facilities in Malaysia), where they’ll take anywhere from 10 days to a month to have all the relevant information extracted from your DNA.

This sample will provide Advanx Health an algorithm that can be kept as data, and from this they’ll be able to derive information such as your health risks (cardiac problems, diabetes, stroke, and plenty of others), your specific nutritional requirements (how much fat, iron, or calcium your body needs), the types of physical activity most-suited to keeping you fit (weight training for some, cardio for others), and your intrinsic traits such as dietary intolerances (lactose, alcohol, caffeine), and even your aptitude for learning.

Wei Shian explained that Advanx Health will store the information in two separate data banks—one where DNA information is tied to users and can be easily accessed in the future (should the same user want to learn more about his/herself), and another where the information is anonymous and will be used as a sort of benchmark database for health information in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region.

And the reason for Advanx Health creating a database of SEA users is the fact that the more established DNA data banks contain higher concentrations of Caucasian gene samples, making it so that most medical solutions created today follow guidelines that suit those genes better than the ones from this side of the planet—SEA included.

“We want to work with medical parties to create our own guidelines—instead of using guidelines meant for Caucasian users, imagine if we a database that just suited Malaysians.”

He went on to explain that the bigger picture for Advanx Health was to create a highly specialised database of SEA profiles with 5,000 as the targeted number. This would be so that they could be better positioned to become leaders in an industry that he thinks is set to become more widely accepted in years to come.

A pharmacist and a user with the DNA kit.

Time To Act On It

While all this sounds pretty impressive, Wei Shian thinks it’s what you can do with all this information that matters most.

Along with results of the DNA test, Advanx Health will offer customers a variety of reports that go into the finer details of the topics mentioned previously.

Here, users will be able to learn what they can change in their daily routines to make themselves fitter and healthier and—equally as important—how to prevent themselves from falling victim to serious diseases and illnesses in the first place.

Here he provided the example of Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s Nasophyrangeal (nose) cancer which is a higher risk for Chinese males compared to the rest of the world. This is also one of the many things that can be picked up by their DNA test.

“We hope to empower people to use advantage of this information to take charge of their health,” he said. “So if we know our risks for certain diseases, we’ll know exactly what to look out for when we go for blood tests or screenings, and we can monitor our health through that.”

This is all part of Advanx Health’s strategy to provide more value and make sure that the full benefit of their service is realised by their users.

“Just having the report isn’t enough—we always look at what more we can do more for the customer once they get their reports,” Wei Shian said.

To realise this, Advanx Health are looking at partnership opportunities with brands such as Zenxin, dahmakan, and Policy Street to offer their users personalised solutions to everyday activities. Going forward, Wei Shian gave the possibility of offering meal plan packages in association with dahmakan, personalised fitness classes with ClassPass, and dietary consultations with Zenxin.

There Will Be Demand

Wei Shian revealed that their goal within the next five years was to hit 200,000 customers and have their own facility for testing and research—a lofty aim, but one that he thinks is attainable.

At the moment, their strategy to bring in more users involves selling their DNA Explorer kits at reduced prices starting from RM499 (their original price stands at RM1,299) for a limited time, and also by raising awareness that there is a real need for a service such as theirs.

“Awareness is a big deal, because when people today talk about health testing, they think about blood tests which of course come much cheaper and faster,” Wei Shian said.

“We educate our market on the differences between blood tests and DNA tests—that while blood tests can only tell you about the present, DNA testing can also tell you about what’s going to happen in the future.”

“After a year or working at this, we’re beginning to notice that Malaysians are beginning to have more interest in DNA testing.”

Co-founder Wei Shian giving a talk on DNA testing. / Image Credit: Advanx Health

Right now, one of the strategies Advanx Health is using to spread the word is via engaging corporations to provide talks to working professionals, and by working with companies such as Health Metrics to discover which companies they can target next.

All this is in addition to their ongoing online campaigning and their already strong network of 60 Malaysian pharmacies through which they can promote their products.

Feature Image Credit: Advanx Health

 

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