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London startup develops world’s first nutrigenomics wellness supplement: The next generation of personalised nutrition

Image credits: karmacist

Nutrigenomics-based wellness is a growing segment, which as per Global Wellness Institute’s report, is estimated to be worth $4.5 trillion. While there are numerous companies in this sector, Karmacist is making waves and keeping the spotlight on itself by harnessing nutrigenomics research. The London-based startup has announced raising £700,000 in its pre-seed investment round. 

Marketing focus with funding

The funding round for Karmacist was led by Founders Factory and travel entrepreneur Craig Burkinshaw. Other investors in the company include Sir Charlie Mayfield, former chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, and Matt Knapp, a VP at D2C pioneers Dollar Shave Club. In an interview with TFN, the company’s founder and CEO, Tim Samuels, reveals more on how they plan to use the fresh capital. 

“First and foremost we’re going to plough the money into marketing – to not just get Karmacist out there but explain the breakthroughs our Harvard and Stanford scientists have come up with.” Samuels notes. He adds that the company will keep their overhead to a minimum to focus primarily on marketing and with his background in broadcasting, they will be creating original content such as podcasts and video as well. Furthermore, they aim to grow further as a direct to consumer brand. 

Samuels also reveals to TFN that the company currently plans to launch and establish a market fit. After it has gained traction, they intend to raise another round of funding in the second half of 2022. 

Spearheading an industry

Nutrigenomics is a branch of science that explores the relationshipn between human nutrition, human genome and health. To put it bluntly, it studies how your diet can impact your genes and especially, gene expression. Nutrigenomics primarily examines how some nutrients can help regulate particular genes or teams of genes, which are vital to our physical and mental health. 

“What we’ve come to realise is just how important gene expression is: that so much of our lives and health isn’t ‘determined’ by the DNA we’ve inherited but is actually driven by our lifestyles. How we live in essence switches genes on/off – with an estimated 70% of our health/wellbeing down to gene expression,” says Samuels. 

Karmacist is one of the first companies to come up with nutrigenomic supplements. And as one might expect, they faced their fair share of challenges along the way. The key challenge was developing their formulations, which resulted from a collaboration between a Harvard nutritional psychiatrist and a Stanford epigeneticist. “Things always take a little longer than expected but you can’t rush science!” Samuels comments. 

Louis Warner, Founders Factory COO, comments, “Tim and Hélène are great entrepreneurs who are drawing on their unique experiences and knowledge, both personally and professionally, to lead a new and exciting field of mental wellbeing. Everyone at Founders Factory congratulates them on their launch and we look forward to seeing them thrive and succeed.”

The story behind the startup

Karmacist was founded by award-winning documentary maker and journalist Tim Samuels and co-founder Hélène Bamba. Samuels hosts a podcast wherein he met a pair of scientists; Harvard nutritional psychiatrist Dr Uma Naidoo and Stanford epigeneticist Professor Vittorio Sebastiano. After talking with the duo, he was inspired to pursue the field of nutrigenomic further and bring nutrigenomic-based supplements for consumers. 

The company is starting out with four supplement formulations, which address energy, immunity, mood or stress levels. The company says all of its formulations contain rare and ancient botanicals. We asked Samuels how using these botanicals is different from Ayurvedic supplements or other similar offerings. 

The inspiration

Samuels notes that while we’ve been using plants and herbs for over 60,000 years, we don’t always know how or why they work. “What’s exciting is applying cutting-edge science to get to the root of the how and why of plant power. So whilst something like ashwagandha has been used for three thousand years, we can now see how it’s been shown to prevent the expression of particular genes linked to inflammation – which is a known factor in something like stress,” Samuels adds. 

Another example Samuels adds is how the company’s mood formulation works. It contains Saffron and Dr Naidoo found that this spice could be as effective as Prozac for symptoms of mild to moderate depression. 

“To take that deeper, Prof Vittorio Sebastiano, the Stanford epigeneticist, can examine what Saffron can do on that all-important genetic level. For instance, Saffron’s active components reduce the expression of the serotonin transporter gene (SERT or 5-HTT) which is involved in recycling serotonin – the ‘happy hormone’ – and increases the expression of dopamine in the brain,” Samuels concludes. 

Samuel notes that the botanicals used in their products are inspired by cultures such as Ayurveda, Native American, traditional Chinese and Japanese, Persia, Peru, and Europe.

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