More Intelligent Tomorrow host Dave Anderson got a chance to catch up with FOXO Technologies’ Tyler Danielson and Nichole Rigby to discuss longevity, epigenetics, and rethinking life insurance.
Tyler Danielson is the Chief Technology Officer at FOXO Technologies with a history of working in the financial services and commerce industries. Nichole Rigby is the Director of Data Science and Bioinformatics at FOXO Technologies. She’s a data scientist specializing in analyzing genetic and other biological data.
FOXO Technologies is a company that’s bringing epigenetics together with AI to disrupt the insurance industry. It’s creating models to classify human health based on epigenetic data and using those models for the goal of underwriting life insurance.
Since epigenetics is a new term for most of us, Dave asked Nichole to explain it.
At the most basic level, epigenetics are the chemical modifications that exist along the outside of DNA strands and affect gene expression. They’re not your genes, which are coded into your DNA and don’t change. Epigenetics are chemicals that sit on the gene and are responsible for the expression of those genes.
We’re still learning what controls and influences epigenetics. But we do know they change over a person’s lifetime. Some are naturally expressed, and others are affected by factors such as diet and exercise.
David says he’s been hearing more and more about epigenetics lately. Is this new science, or are we just noticing it more?
While it’s a new field of study, the public is getting familiar with the idea of individual genetic data thanks to the rise of consumer genetic testing services.
An epigenetic test starts with collecting a saliva sample, so it’s less invasive than a traditional blood test.
When your doctor runs a blood test, they’re usually looking for specific indicators which will tell, for example, if you’re a smoker. The advantage of epigenetic testing is that it returns a much wider range of information.
For an insurance company, the results could be useful for determining if it should insure someone and for how much.
“Human made epigenetics risk classification is a challenge.”
This is a new approach to risk classification. Because the insurance industry already has a long-standing history of using existing actuary tables, the acceptance of epigenetic testing as a tool for risk classification is proving to be one of the biggest challenges for FOXO.
But the use of AI has helped them uncover new insights. With just a single sample, FOXO can quantify more than 850,000 sites along the genome overnight.
Epigenetics can be used as a tool for making health improvements over time. For example, you can take a test to establish a baseline. Now spend the next few months working to improve your health habits. Take the test again, and you can compare results to see your progress over time. Dave compares it to the idea of having your own genetic personal trainer.
Tyler is of the opinion epigenetics is a key to understanding longevity. FOXO wants to help you live longer, which is something other insurance companies have a hard time saying. If FOXO can help you live a longer and happier life, you’re less likely to file a claim, and that’s a winning strategy for an insurance company.
Yet, insurance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to epigenetics. It has so many other possible applications. The excitement of a new science is what brought Nichole to the field and to FOXO.
“I’m here to do really cool science with the potential … to help humans and make the world a better place.”
FOXO is unique in using epigenetics as a wellness report. It’s the first company to combine epigenetics, wellness, and insurance.
Dave wants to know how we get to a more intelligent tomorrow with epigenetics.
Nichole’s answer is with lots and lots of data. Tyler wants insurance companies to take a step back and reconsider how to help its customers live longer.
In this episode, learn more about how FOXO Technologies is seeking to disrupt the insurance industry including:
- Learn about epigenetics and how it differs from DNA
- Discover how using epigenetics can help you live longer
- Hear the reasons epigenetics is changing the insurance industry