Thanks for joining us Nikolina. So –
What are glycans and what is Glycanage?
Well, in simple terms, glycans are part of our biology that have been ignored for a long time because we haven’t previously had the tools to analyse them.
Glycans are complex carbohydrates – sugars – and that’s why there has been some confusion about them. They are actually sophisticated modifications of our proteins which change how our body works – beyond genetic influence, beyond environmental factors – and so a great way of seeing what’s happening to our body through time. We can use them to look at our genetic potential and what changes have happened to our body, and the direction of travel for our health. Your biological age or “glycanage”!
Glycanage started in a small research lab in Croatia – it was actually my father who pioneered work in this space, undertaking the first large-scale human glycan studies. Working with over 200 thousand participants we’ve seen that glycans change a lot with age, so glycan ageing can now be a test to measure an individual’s biological ageing.
We are at the forefront of glycan analysis and biomarker discovery. We have seen certain glycan structures change 7 years before an individual develops insulin resistance and up to 10 years before a heart attack or stroke. Some of these changes even being the cause of the disease, for example in the case of obesity onset hypertension. There’s a whole field of biomarkers that will come from glycan analysis, where clinicians will be able to preempt onset of disease and also change the ‘curve’ of disease through interventions.
Who has Glycanage been created for?
Those people who are paid to keep you healthy! And the reason we say that is a lot of population health activity takes place outside of the healthcare system.
We currently work with private doctors, and doctors who are moving into functional medicine, lifestyle medicine and longevity medicine to keep their patients healthy for as long as possible and preempt anything that may happen in the future.
We are also developing a menopause biomarker, MenoAge. We know men and women age differently, for women this is significantly affected by their ovaries, and we can predict menopause years before it happens.
There is a lot of misdiagnosis of menopause and hence a big burden on healthcare due to misdiagnosis and many years of attending appointments before anybody can tell a patient that their symptoms are related to their hormones – it’s not depression, it’s not fibromyalgia, it’s not something else. And the reason we’ve not had biomarkers in this area is that hormones have very short half-lives, so to try and identify an imbalance or deficiency is very difficult as hormones change hour to hour. There can be different results between the morning and the evening, and different times in the cycle.
As glycans have a longer half life, we can integrate information over weeks and months to understand what has been happening with the hormones. So this will be a great tool to be used by clinicians to assess when a women is entering menopause and identify the right personalised treatment for them, using it as a companion diagnostic.
What would you say are your successes on your scale-up journey?
We’ve had many exciting discoveries from our origins in the research lab, which received about £25M grants in the last 10 years – and that is why we exist today, building on that early work.
Where we have been successful as a commercial company is bringing that knowledge to people and raising awareness of glycans as an important part of our biology. Glycans haven’t been talked about in popular media. In the last 2 years we’ve been really everywhere! From BBC Click to Sky One to all of the big press outlets and recently the US media including the Wall Street Media, Forbes and I think we’ve really put glycans into the mainstream! And how we’ve done that is to create a product used by a wide range of people who can then try out the experience and talk about it, which makes this more accessible to the public.
We are now profitable as a two and a half year old start up (which is great!), and accessible globally with over 400 physicians working with us – many in the UK, the US and across Europe – and available directly to consumers as well.
And finally, can you tell us about your experience of participating in the P4SY Accelerator Programme?
It’s been amazing!
I’ve really enjoyed making new connections and our interactions. The P4SY Female Founders Group has been a particular highlight – they’re an amazing group of women.
We’ve found that by being involved in P4SY, we’ve been approached by many potential new partners and customers and UK-based angels and investors. We’re very much looking forward to showcasing Glycanage at the P4SY Showcase event.