Taking Vitamins Goes High-Tech

By: Mike Montgomery

When you think of highly personalized, tech-oriented health care, you tend to think of the type-A Silicon Valley personalities who obsess over life hacks. But the ideal first patients for Vitagene, a startup that customizes supplement packages, turned out to be an unexpected group: weight-loss-surgery patients. The surgery makes it necessary for patients to take a medically required list of nutrients, which means they are the perfect group to test the idea that by marrying science and technology, dietary supplements can move past the hype and into the realm of solid science.

Supplements are a $32 billion per year market that is increasingly popular with entrepreneurs. Eric Ryan, the founder of Method cleaning products, has turned his eye to supplements with his new company, Olly. In December, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced a $2 million seed investment in Nootrobox — a supplement company that markets its pills in attractive little glass bottles labeled “Rise,” “Sprint” and “Yawn.”

Vitagene, a San Francisco-based startup founded two years ago, is the latest guest at this party. The company began working with bariatric surgeons in November, gathering blood tests, genetic profiles and detailed lifestyle and diet assessments from post-surgery patients. Each beta patient now gets a monthly shipment of vitamins and supplements tailored to their own body makeup. Vitagene frequently tweaks the mix as more data comes in from the patient’s doctor. Eventually the company hopes to expand its service to other types of patients and to consumers more broadly.

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