Formed in 2020, Mitra Bio is using genomics to increase healthspan and enable precision therapies for the skin. Mitra Bio has developed a proprietary skin sampling technique together with unique epigenetic biomarkers to track skin ageing directly on human skin (replacing invasive biopsies, artificial skin or animal models).
With a combination of clinical trials, non-invasive skin sampling, next-generation sequencing and state-of-the-art data science, Mitra guides the design of novel skincare compounds that work directly on the human skin.
Tell Us About the Business, How Did it Start?
For the past 6 years, I’ve been actively working in translating epigenetics into clinics. Epigenetics are chemical modifications on the surface of DNA that do not perturb its structure but affect how genes express themselves – one of the best biomarkers for early cancer detection and biological age prediction.
During my PhD, I focused on developing a self sampling diagnostic tool based off this concept, which would help predict who can develop cervical cancer upon HPV infection. This new tool will help to reduce the risk of cancer by accurately identifying women at high-risk, which is important to address over treatment and subsequent fertility issues. This tool is now being trialed by the NHS.
I met my co-founder, Shakiba Kaveh, in 2019 when she told me about how good the power product development was at L’Oreal, where she had previously worked. As epigenetics is a dynamic marker connecting environment with gene expression we brainstormed on noninvasively collecting this data from skin.
Mitra Bio has combined the powers of multi-omics and AI to extend the skins longevity, paving a way for personalised treatments. Currently we are working with global skincare companies, helping them develop breakthrough claims in anti-ageing, such as rejuvenation and environmental stressors such as UV. We plan to launch our product into clinics in 2023 which will help people measure and address biological skin ageing.
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What Challenges Have You Faced?
We launched Mitra Bio to close the data gap that exists between skincare consumers and the skincare products they use. Currently, when you apply a product on your skin with the hope of rejuvenation, there is no way to see if it’s working other than how it “feels” which is extremely subjective.
One of our biggest challenges was to build an objective tool that would be able to accurately read the quality of skin, whilst in the middle of a global pandemic! The pandemic made it difficult to access good lab equipment and supplies. However we were accepted on to the Illumina Accelerator, which allowed us to push our product further. We have developed a technique to extract viable genomic data from a small number of skin cells collected with an adhesive applied directly on the skin.
This is a game-changer in the industry as it enables tissue specific epigenetic testing without the use of invasive biopsies. When compared to the biopsy, our tape stripping technique shows more than 97% correlation for extracting epigenetic markers. We have also validated the reproducibility of the technique in more than 400 samples. In a recent trial with a global skincare brand, we proved the impact of formulations applied on the skin where we saw a 60% change in epigenetic markers between untreated and treated skin.
How Has the Business Evolved?
We started Mitra Bio in 2020, simply from an idea. Now we are working with the top skincare companies in the world. We knew that having a good product is important but having a product that solves a problem is even more important. Early on, we went on a journey to identify product market fit and validate our product commercially.
Our priority was to get paid-traction from skincare companies and ensure that our technology was in their research pipelines. In October 2020, we won a research contract from a French skincare company to develop our tool. Other contracts followed.
What Can We Hope to See From the Business in the Future?
Our aim is to drive personalised skin treatments. However, we need to properly diagnose and track changes before we identify those treatments. Nobody knows whether their skincare is working. If the industry can prove true efficacy and match the right product to the right skin type, the market could double in size.
Mitra Bio is addressing this by putting the power in the hands of the consumer. We will soon be launching our test into clinics to empower the consumer with knowledge on how their skin is ageing and what to do about it. Our growing dataset will place us in a unique place to have a complete understanding of skin types and how ingredients are affecting each one of them. We will be able to drive treatments for each skin need, irrespective of gender, race, or background.
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