While the topic of DNA testing for ancestry is a popular conversation piece these days, the more pertinent subject is DNA health tests – such as those done by the hard-working team at DNAlysis – to find out what really makes your body unique and how to apply this invaluable information to your daily lifestyle habits.
A visit to the Thrupps Centre in Joburg’s upscale suburb of Illovo is usually one I make to find specialist ingredients at Thrupps grocers. Today, however, I’m here for a taste of something entirely different: to complete a set of exams for which I can’t study, but the results of which will provide me with “blueprints” of my physical make-up. I’m ambivalent about this – the responsible adult in me wants to know the facts, while the epicurean side of me is terrified of being told I can no longer indulge in (admittedly, rather a lot of) what I fancy!
Sitting across the table from me is Dr Daniel (Danny) Meyersfeld, founder and CEO of DNAlysis Biotechnology, a company I knew little more about before this visit than the mission statement on its website: “We provide the tools to accurately transition genetic results into realistic health solutions.”
Having completed a PhD in Genetics at Wits in 2005, Danny carried out postdoctorate work in molecular research for two years. Towards the end of this time, Danny says, “I knew I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life in academia. I wanted to stay in SA and work in the field of molecular biology. I started looking at what was happening globally with the information advances coming out of the sequencing of the Human Genome Project [HGP].” Completed in the USA in 2003, the HGP was groundbreaking exploratory work done by a team of global researchers to sequence and map all the genes – collectively called a genome – that make up the human species.
Danny continues: “Suddenly, companies were spewing out information and direct-to-consumer genetic tests were being sold online, some of them really good ones. What frustrated me was that doctors in SA didn’t have access to this technology, and there was a massive gap between the knowledge that was available within the academic environment and the average health-conscious consumer being able to derive some benefit from that research.”
Determined to make these technologies available in SA and close this gap, Danny established DNAlysis Biotechnologies in 2008. While he’s had various business partners along the way, today he is the sole proprietor.
“Our ISO/IEC-accredited laboratory is on-site, with state-of-the-art platforms, four permanent lab technicians and four data capturers. In the last two years, we’ve doubled in staff size, as there’s so much more awareness now.”
By offering a range of specific tests based on the patient’s needs – Diet, Skin, Health, Mind, Oestrogen, Sport and Pharmacogenomics, the latter being a test to determine how an individual will respond to medications – DNAlysis gives its trained healthcare practitioners the benefit of a patient’s blueprint, thereby offering invaluable insight into the personalised treatment required, along with the the patient’s healthcare extensions, be it managing chronic disease, weight and more.
Danny elaborates: “A lot of data is available at genetic level that we decode for doctors. If you look at prescription medication, many people find that drugs are not working or have side effects. With the benefit of genetic testing, you can pinpoint which drug is likely to be the most effective and get straight to it.
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