Startups, BioPharma

Startup using genetics to enhance athletic performance

This isn’t at the level of genetic doping – but it’s an early step in plumbing one’s genes to optimize athletic performance.

exercise running athlete woman winter jogging

Genomics aren’t just moving towards precision medicine: For sports, there’s a precision performance movement underway – which is targeted directly at the fast-growing consumer genomics market.

Athletes today rely on carefully crafted nutritional and exercise regimens to optimize their performance. Nova Scotia-based startup Athletigen is adding a genetic twist to this concept: It profiles athlete’s health, studying muscle tissue, energy metabolism and even psychology to craft an action plan to improve athletic prowess.

It just raised $1.55 million in seed funding to grow its Athletigen Performance Platform. The funding was led by Exponential Partners, and recently partnered with Affymetrix – a San Diego genotyping microarray company that helps Athletigen sequence some 850,000 genetic variants linked to athletic performance.

Athletigen says it’s working with Olympic athletes and coaches in advance of the 2016 games in Rio De Janeiro. Individuals that have used 23andMe can import their genetics data into Athletigen’s site – and get an analysis free of charge.

Of course, such profiling is just the first step in what a company could do to genetically improve athletes’ performance. A 2012 Nature article, for instance, discussed the potential of “gene doping” in athletics.

And a more benign, and likely forthcoming application of genetics in sports? Determining whether your kid’s more prone to succeed in water polo or racquetball. There are physical and intellectual factors that predispose individuals to different sports, and it could be found in our genetics.

[Image from Big Stock Photos]