LONDON, United Kingdom — Almost a year since an eye-opening report forecasted huge annual growth for the global biohacking market, innovative wellness startups backed by world-leading investors are transforming a sector that was previously eyed with scorn and scepticism.
According to the report by Market Research Future, the “Global Biohacking Market” is expected to grow at a CAGR of 19.42% between 2017 and 2023, driven by “rising awareness about biohacking, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, and extensive demand for smart devices and drugs across the globe”.
Some of the wellness brands that have already benefited in 2019 include smart sleep-tracking and sleep-improving ring Oura, which recently surpassed $20 million in funding. Similarly, Mindstrong Health, a Californian company dedicated to transforming mental health by creating an app that can diagnose depression, secured $31 million investment at the start of the year.
And most eye-catchingly are Immortalis, which uses a revolutionary approach based on a combination of microbiome medicine, genetics and epigenetics, to create a product it claims can alter people’s minds and bodies to engineer immortality, and Chronomics, a young London startup that tracks users’ changing health and wellbeing by harnessing the epigenetic information found in their DNA.
The disruptive company earned £1.1 million funding this January, less than a year after launching, from two world-leading venture capital firms, SOSV (one of the world’s most active early-stage biotech investors) and Anthemis, investors dedicated to cultivating change in financial services.
Speaking to Business Leader, Chronomics CEO and Founder Dr Tom Stubbs explained: “Receiving the support of such prominent backers reflects their confidence in our company and our vision of a future of personalised and proactive health management.”
A shift in what constitutes biohacking has seen the sector be taken more seriously in recent years, believes Niraj Shah, European Co-Chair for Silicon Valley-based Transformative Technology – a central gathering point for the community to stimulate the development of scalable transformative technologies.
“The Silicon Valley elite’s obsession with longevity, for example the likes of Google viewing death as something to be ‘solved’, gets headlines,” says Shah. “But that’s not where the main biohacking scene is.” Even the term itself is a bit loaded.
“Broadly speaking, biohacking can be defined as ‘changing the environment around you and inside you, so you have more control over your biology’ according to Dave Asprey or ‘using systems thinking to live better through science, technology & nature’ as outlined by the Biohacker Center,” explains Shah.
“The main driver for increased interest in biohacking is that it’s a subset of wellness where people aim to improve their biology and ultimately their experience of life.
“So as the wellness industry grows and begins to be taken more seriously by government and health bodies, so too is biohacking.”
THE FUTURE’S BRIGHT
As with the wellness sector, credibility remains the biggest threat to growth.
“There’s certainly growing interest in this area, as shown by the numbers and financiers,” says Shah. “But it’s still quite early in this movement and credibility is one of the biggest challenges for the industry. The more we move towards clinical standards the better,” he suggests.
Last year’s report also highlighted the need for increased awareness among developing regions across the globe, which could restrict growth for the biohacking sector.
The report noted: “The World Biohacking Market is growing due to an increase in demand for innovative products, growing emphasis on biosafety and biosecurity, and overall demand of effective and efficient treatment solutions in healthcare.
“However, major restraints on the growth of the market are restrictions governing genetic engineering experiments, a lack of funds available for research and a lack of expertise.”
Regardless, the industry is only going to get bigger and earn greater investment, believes Shah.
“The industry is thriving because we are living longer but getting sicker younger, and there’s a huge market growing every day looking for solutions to problems that aren’t being effectively addressed by mainstream medical channels,” he argues.
“Without a doubt, lots of work of a potentially dubious nature is being done behind closed doors in countries around the world….today we can replace mitochondrial DNA, in the future we’ll be able to programme it.”
The quest for the optimised self isn’t a new one, but with more capital being injected into the bio-hacking segment, wellness brands are driving innovation forward at a startling speed, and in doing so are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be well further than ever before.