Test box
Test box

When Generation Lab officially launches in the spring this year, the company will offer what it claims is the first clinically-based test that uses epigenetic information to measure biological age and disease risk. The company is currently testing its product internally and plans to officially launch its product in the second quarter of 2024. 

Generation Lab is the brainchild of Alina Rui Su, who serves as its CEO and co-founder. After obtaining her undergraduate degree in bioengineering from University of California, Berkeley, Su went on to pursue a doctorate degree at Harvard Medical School—she is currently on leave from the program— where she focused on research in regenerative medicine and longevity. Her interest in those topics led her to co-found Generation Lab, which aims to use information from DNA methylation patterns to help people live longer, healthier lives. 

Through its testing, the Bay Area-based company quantifies people’s risk of developing one or more of the diseases of aging including metabolic and cardiac conditions as well as various cancers. “We recognize that if we can solve aging as a problem, then we can reverse the diseases that are going to potentially happen,”  Su explained. The goal is not to prolong life indefinitely but rather to slow the breakdown of the body’s systems. As people age, the amount of biomolecular noise in their bodies increases as their systems break down. “If we can control the expansion of the noise, then we can control the risk of the disease.”

Generation Lab aims to provide a targeted approach for reversing aging by testing patients before and after they receive tailored interventions and recommendations based on information from their genomes. That information is gleaned from a genetic test that Generation Lab is developing for quantifying individuals’ biological ages—which is distinct from their chronological age. 

Patients receive a report that includes details about their top aging factors and their contributions to the aging process including inflammatory regulation, fibrosis, and metabolism. The report also provides breakdowns of the biological ages of 20 organ systems in the body, the rate at which they are aging at the time of testing, and their current trajectories as well as associated diseases and important genetic pathways. Also included are recommendations for dietary and lifestyle changes that people can make to reverse the biological ages of their systems. Patients are assigned a random ID number and their de-identified data is stored in a HIPAA compliant database. Patients will be able to access their reports from a user portal that they can log into directly. 

The data used to generate the report comes from cheek swabs. Patients receive a kit similar to the one used by 23and Me which they use to collect their sample and send it in for testing. “We’re measuring the methylation levels on specific CpG sites, which is a specific gene that relates to aging,” Su explained. “With that, we can actually see what your biological age is and [the level] of biological noise in your body.” Once their reports are ready, the patient is connected to a longevity doctor that Generation Lab partners with. The clinician walks through the report in detail with the patient and shares personalized lifestyle changes and supplements based on their epigenetic information including the best exercises and nutrition for their needs. 

Patients are retested every 2-4 months, depending on the plan they select, to assess whether their biological age has changed. For now the focus is on testing people who are healthy and taking steps to stop them from progressing further towards disease. “What we are able to do is pre-diagnosis,” Su said. “We can tell you that these are the risks that you can work on and you can reverse that before the disease [happens]. We’re not a tool to actually diagnose if you have diabetes or not.” 

Details of the company’s approach were published in one of the September 2023 issues of the journal Aging. The paper is titled “Fail-tests of DNA methylation clocks, and development of a noise barometer for measuring epigenetic pressure of aging and disease.” The paper explains in detail how the company measures methylation levels on CpG sites that are most relevant to aging and how looking at this information can provide details about the biological noise in the body. 

The list of co-authors on the 2023 Aging paper includes members of Generation’s leadership team, some of whom are experts in longevity research. One of the company’s co-founders is Irina Conboy, PhD, a professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley. Conboy’s laboratory studies age-imposed and pathological changes in the molecular compositions of the environments of adult stem cells with an eye towards addressing diseases associated with human aging. Her list of accomplishments include the discovery that connecting young and old mice in such a way that they share blood and organs could rejuvenate tissue and reverse signs of aging in the old mice. 

Conboy was the first author on a 2005 paper that described the study. And she is the senior author of a 2020 paper in the journal Aging, that expanded on the initial study. Her husband and research partner, Michael Conboy, PhD, a senior researcher and lecturer in UC Berkeley’s bioengineering department, is also a co-author on both papers as well as on the most recent paper from Generation Lab. 

The 2020 paper concluded that the older mice had elevated levels of some detrimental proteins that were neutralized or removed by the younger mice. That led Conboy and her team to explore the possibility of performing a modified blood plasma exchange to improve the health of older people and to treat age-related diseases such as muscle wasting, neuro-degeneration, and type 2 diabetes.

When Generation Lab launches its product in Q2 of this year, customers will have their pick of two membership models. In the first option, customers pay $299 for their first test and a $69 monthly subscription fee. These customers will be tested every four months for a total of three tests for the year. In the second option, customers will pay $399 for their first test and pay a $39 monthly subscription. They will be re-tested every two months and get a total of six tests. 

A core part of Generation Lab’s work is compiling what they believe is the world’s first epigenetic data library dedicated to aging that will track longitudinal aging & disease interventions and the efficacy of those interventions. Access to this data has important implications for pharmaceutical research and development enabling pharmaceutical companies develop new, more effective therapeutics. Because of the repeated testing across different timepoints, “we’ll be able to track exactly [how] your genetic information is changing according to different interventions,” Su said. It’s different from what companies like 23andMe are doing. Besides collecting a different data type, epigenetic rather than genetic information, “the data that we are collecting is related to health and its changeable” with the right interventions, she noted. 

Generation Lab has raised an undisclosed amount of money in a pre-seed funding round and has plans to raise additional funds in the near future. Currently, the company has eight people on staff. 

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