Biohacking on the rise: This UK scientist wants to reverse your age and also increase healthspan
There’s a new wave of ‘biohacking’ rooting in the modern science world. Some now want to improve their genes, DNA, chip their brains and opt for personalised medicines to make them healthier, more productive and happier. While this may sound a tad terrifying, it is becoming a trend, and expert biohackers are leveraging science and technology to come up with unconventional anti-aging products for longevity and younger looking people.
Nuchido: science for reverse aging
UK-based biotech startup Nuchido is led by co-founder Dr. Nichola Conlon, who calls herself a ‘futurist.’ Their team of eight people has developed supplements that target one of the key molecules regulating ageing. Conlon says, “Nuchido was founded back in 2017 with a mission to translate complex science into products that can offer maximum healthspan and optimal life experience. Over here, healthspan means the number of years that you’ll live in good health, as opposed to lifespan, which is just the ultimate number of years you live, regardless of whether you’re spending the last 10-20 years in poor health.”
Industry worth over £1.8 trillion
Based out of Newcastle, the company currently offers Nuchido TIME+ supplements, which helps maximise Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+) production in our bodies. NAD+ is stated to play a key role in carrying out many critical biological processes, from converting nutrients into energy to helping keep our cells in good working order. However, its levels decrease as we age since the enzymes that create NAD+ wear out, so our cells lose the ability to make the levels they need.
“We fit well within the wellness market, which is an industry that’s worth over £1.8 trillion. It is a huge sector that’s always looking for science-based solutions, and that is what we are offering,” reveals Conlon, when talking about market positioning.
Conlon always wanted to help people after finishing her PhD in molecular biology and went to work in an early-stage drug development company in her early years of career, before co-founding Nuchido. “That was my way to get science out to the people since everyone takes medicines. But it turned out to be a rather naive outlook at the time; I didn’t understand the sheer complexity involved in bringing a drug to the market.”
“Most people don’t really realise, but to get a single drug to the market, it takes about 10 to 15 years and millions of pounds. It was frustrating, as a scientist working in a drug development company, to see amazing breakthroughs in the lab that will take years before being rolled out to the market,” she adds.
Not just another anti-aging supplement
When we talk about supplements, there are multiple companies selling ‘miracle’ products. Differentiating Nuchido from such companies was crucial for the biohacking startups’ success. Conlon comments, “We are extremely focused on aging and healthy aging within the wellness world. Our USP is that, as scientists actually understand how complex the body is, on a physiological level and deliver a whole system’s approach.”
New supplement line on cards
Currently, Nuchido only sells its Time+ supplement range. However, it plans to foray into the topical category and launch the new supplement line with skincare products. The upcoming products will be focused around another area of aging called senescence.
“Senescence is a deep area in biological science. However, the basic idea is that as we grow older, there’s an accumulation of junk cells in our body, which are unable to function properly and hence secrete inflammatory substances and other nasty things,” Conlon explains. “A lot of research being on this subject suggests that getting rid of such cells could rejuvenate tissues and organs. So, we are looking at products that could help eliminate troublesome senescence cells from the body. This is, again, an example of bringing cutting edge science right to the consumers.”
Mixed effects during COVID-times
Nuchido has received an undisclosed investment recently and also generating revenue by selling its products. As for the pandemic, it had a mixed effect on the company. “We have different aspects to the business, one of which is lab work. A clinical trial was underway when COVID hit last year and while we managed to finish up human clinical testing, all samples had to be frozen and left, which isn’t ideal. Another impact of the pandemic was delay in getting data, which hinders publishing, sales and other aspects of the business. However, it is all moving forward now,” notes Conlon.
One of the key issues faced by the company during COVID-19 lockdowns was with the supply chain. As per Conlon, “Sourcing raw materials and manufacturing our supplements was difficult as lead times went through the roof. We now have all of this under control and luckily, we were proactive when the pandemic began and decided to put orders in much earlier than we needed to.”
Brexit: a headache that won’t go away soon
With Brexit finally coming into full effect, businesses dealing with the EU need to take note of all the changes and operate their businesses accordingly. For Nuchido, “It has been a bit of a headache for us,” says Conlon. “I think it definitely slowed our growth and expansion plans since supplements are regulated by key European agencies. Now, since we have detached ourselves from the EU, we need to ensure compliance with the new various regulations and rules across all European countries.”
Conlon adds that there’s much more paperwork involved in logistics, shipping, tax, and other areas due to Brexit. However, the company knew this would happen and had contingency plans in place. She adds that they are well prepared to cope with the expected changes in the best way possible.
Nuchido offers its take on longevity science with its ‘healthspan’ extending products and Conlon has worked really hard to bring the company to where it is now.
Successful female entrepreneur in science, no easy feat!
It’s no surprise that there’s a notable gender pay gap in the workplace and it is difficult for women to break through in male dominated businesses. Conlon tells us how right from the start, she was actively discouraged to pursue the male dominated field.
“After finishing my master’s degree while pregnant, I actually handed in my dissertation, and birthed my daughter, two weeks later. To that, I was actively discouraged from doing my PhD, both by men and women. People kept saying that one can’t have a successful career in science without sidelining their family. However, I decided to manage both. While the journey of completing a PhD with a newborn child was not easy, I managed to pull it off, get a good thesis out and successfully finish it,” says Conlon.
“Business and science are primarily male dominant sectors. I have had some embarrassing moments, one of which was when I turned up with a male colleague and people remarked that it is good I turned up with my boss,” Conlon remarks.
“I also present at scientific conferences, some of which are posted online. On YouTube, people comment on my attire saying how dare she wear something like that at a scientific conference! I believe such comments would never show up in videos of male professors.”
It’s not like Conlon didn’t doubt herself. She sometimes really struggled along the way and wondered whether people were correct all along. Her daughter also fell seriously sick with severe meningitis as a baby and Nichola had to pull through all of it while being told by people that she shouldn’t have done it and that she was doing too much. However, she got through all of it and is now a successful scientist and entrepreneur.