More than one smartphone app startup has tried to convince you that by using their app you will miraculously avoid the ravages of aging and sagging. All I need to do is open my phone and unplug a few: Gyroscope, MyFitnessPal, Welltory, ActivityTracker, SleepCycle. The list goes on. Whatever, there’s a health app for that.
But today you can download and kick the tires in a new app that claims to be able to literally slow down your aging.
But now you really can download the iPhone app here in the United Kingdom. And the Android version is on the way. The app will launch in the US and worldwide during the first week of September. There is a free version available, but a premium subscription service of £ 30 a year will allow users to continuously monitor their biological age and the actions that affect it.
More on the app in a moment.
Meanwhile, the UK-based startup is clearly causing a sensation among investors. Now he has raised still another seed funding round, this time totaling $ 2.5 million, from 65 healthcare technology and consumer technology investors, bringing the total raised to $ 5 million.
Investors include Alex Tew and Michael Acton-Smith (Calm co-founders), Taavet Hinrikus (Wise co-founder, Skype founding team), Robin Thompson (MyFitnessPal co-founder), One Way Ventures, 7Percent, Seedcamp, Breega, Alexander Ljung ( CEO and Co-Founder of Soundcloud) and legendary healthcare technology investor Esther Dyson.
Mankind’s founders, Pete Ward and Michael Geer, have also created a ‘Scientific Advisory Board’, which includes Kristen Fortney, BioAge co-founder George Church, who helped map the human genome and a professor at the School of Medicine of Harvard, and Aubrey de gray, pioneer of the scientific movement on aging and scientific director of the SENS Research Foundation, among others.
Humanity has also been implementing the invite-only strategy employed by startups like Clubhouse to keep enthusiasm and users testing the app, reaching more than 10,000 users, with, they say, a ‘waiting list of tens of thousands’.
This strategy seems to have paid off. The startup says that it has now reached the maximum number of users on TestFlight (Apple’s test installation of applications) and has steadily increased its waiting list.
Ward and Geer teamed up more than two years ago with the idea of creating an app that could monitor your biological age and give hints and tips on how to slow down and, they say, possibly even reverse it. This is not beyond normal science.
Doctors regularly tell us that you can extend your lifespan just by doing simple things like getting regular exercise, cutting out fast food, and all that jazz. But Ward and Geer realized that standard advice like “walk more” or “drink more water” could be followed and, in fact, reference point this to a real world population.
So the secret sauce in the Humanity app is not that it tells you that you’ve aged a little slower because you’ve slept 8 hours or something similar. It’s because other people your age and health profile did that, and they’re comparing you to that. real world data. Because Humanity is not based on data from other users of your application, but on a scientific database.
Geer said: “Aging remains the leading cause of disease globally, but few people make the connection between aging and their overall health, and most ultimately feel powerless to address it. Being “healthy” is quite a nebulous term, as it is completely personal to each individual. Being able to monitor your aging provides a truly holistic indicator of health, which could help reduce your likelihood of illness and extend the healthy lives of millions. “
The emergence of humanity is a good time. The coronavirus pandemic appears to have reduce life expectancy in England and Wales for a year, giving it back 10 years with the most affected poor.
So how does the app actually work?
Humanity sees their app as like Waze’s traffic app, allowing you to navigate towards a healthier lifestyle and “add years of fully functional and healthy life”, increasing your healthy life expectancy, rather than live a reasonably long but unhealthy life.
After signing up for the app, it walks you through the basics like age, weight, and links to Apple Health.
You then get a ‘Humanity Score’ (H Score) in the app in one of four key categories: ‘movement’, ‘mind’, ‘recovery’ and ‘nutrition’. The higher the H-score, the more likely you are to see a slowdown or reversal in the aging process over time, the startup says.
The app also connects with sensors on your smartphone and wearable devices to track data points like heart rate, step rate, sleep, and activity. This then feeds your ‘aging rate’ and ‘biological age’, analyzing your profile and comparing it with the data from the UK Biobank.
This is where the “special sauce” of Humanity is found.
The startup says it has built validated algorithms with real-world results from longitudinal biobanks (including the UK Biobank). These biobanks take anonymous data on the factors that affect the lifespan of a population. Humanity says it draws on internal research and development alongside collaborations with the Gero and Chronomics teams, and partnerships with companies like Illumina and Eurofins.
Using all of this data, the app then makes suggestions, like going for a run, meditating, getting more sleep, etc. It’s true that any app could do this, but the fact that it’s based on real, real-world data on what it can actually affect your life expectancy instills a lot more confidence.
But what about the issue of privacy?
Geer told me during a call: “Health data is obviously some of the most personal data you can have. So we try to keep most of that data only locally on your phone. We run our algorithms primarily on your phone. Some of those things will have to go back to our servers, but that is encrypted both at rest and when in motion. What little we take to our servers is kept strictly secure. “
But is Humanity trying to replace other health applications? What’s the long game here?
Ward told me, “We are not trying to replace Calm or My Fitness Pal, etc. They are actually part of the ecosystem we will be working with. What we want to do is be a beacon for this way of using data, to really know if people are getting healthier. Previously, this type of health data was only available to study participants at universities, but we want everyone to be able to have this ability to compare their lifestyle with this real-world data. And we think this approach is much more powerful than the old school ‘health app’ model of just telling you to ‘walk 10,000 steps’ or whatever. “
But here is a broader problem. Are we seeing a new opportunity for startups to take advantage of this global Bio Bank data, which is generally in the hands of academic institutions in almost every country? Perhaps we will see more startups emerge, trying to use it in a similar way to startup Humanity. The times, as is often the case, will tell. However, for now at least, Humanity has the leap over that potential competition.