A HIMSS Event | SANTA CLARA, CA | SEPT. 16-18, 2019
By Heather Munro, freelance writer focusing on emerging technology.
HB0’s Silicon Valley famously lampooned the tech industry by featuring an egomaniacal co-founder hiring a personal “blood boy” to give him plasma infusions meant to prolong life. While this is an extreme—and fictional—example of the growing biohacking trend, it illustrates just how commonplace the idea of putting health directly into the hands of the consumer has become.
From nootropics to meal-replacement drinks, products for “hacking” the body’s biology to feel and perform better are fast becoming a lucrative health tech business model. For many entrepreneurs, Dave Asprey, CEO of Bulletproof 360, Inc., is the founder to emulate.
Asprey’s first product, Bulletproof Coffee, has spawned a multi-million dollar empire that now offers supplements, foods and technologies that promise consumers will feel a difference in how they perform the first time they experience them.
In 2017, the cutting-edge company expanded into another vertical when it opened Bulletproof Labs, which it touts as “the world’s first human upgrade center.” Targeting consumers looking to improve their mental and physical performance, the center offers cryotherapy to boost immunity and increase fat burning; red and infrared LED light therapy to promote muscle recovery, decrease inflammation and boost mitochondrial function; and a dry sensory deprivation tank that promotes a theta-wave state in the brain for deep relaxation. Could upgrade centers like this become as ubiquitous as Starbucks? Time will tell.
In addition to innovative new products and therapies, biohacking is getting a serious boost from technology, especially for managing chronic health issues like diabetes. The founder of Bigfoot Biomedical created an automated insulin delivery system when he “hacked” into a closed-loop off-the-shelf insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor for his daughter. Today, the company’s proprietary smart pump automatically doses insulin in the right amount at the right time—a distinct advantage for parents of young children with diabetes, not to mention adults with the disease.
In addition to helping people manage chronic illness, biohacking is giving consumers the knowledge they need to fight off disease in the first place. Perhaps one of the biggest trends in biohacking is DNA testing from companies like 23andme. Using at-home genetic testing kits, consumers learn their genetic risk for developing conditions like breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease and age-related macular degeneration, to name a few. Armed with this kind of information, consumers are beginning to champion their own health, and changing how physicians treat them in the process.
For the healthcare industry, do-it-yourself biology, as biohacking is sometimes called, is a powerful shift in thinking that is helping move precision medicine forward. And for the health tech entrepreneurs, it’s an amazing opportunity to help make a difference in people’s health. Most powerful of all, biohacking technologies and products are coming not from scientists, but from an engaged community of lifelong learners, deep thinkers and passionate health seekers fed up with the status quo.
Award-winning journalist David Ewing Duncan will moderate a discussion with leading biohacking companies and explore how the lines between precision health, genomics and behavior changes are blurring to create a new way to provide healthcare.