Every one of us is a mobile ecosystem, full of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa, most of which are beneficial and work to keep their host organism healthy.
Our skins resemble savannahs and our digestive tracts, especially the colon, are like tropical rainforests, densely populated with many microbes which work together to maintain a stable, healthy environment.
Modern living can often throw these ecosystems out of balance and require microbial environment management to correct. This is where Hong Kong health-tech start-up GUTolution steps in.
The name of this Hong Kong-based biotech start-up is derived from “gut” and “solution” as this team of entrepreneurs believe “Gut microbiome is the solution for overall health”.
“By unleashing the regenerative superpower of microbiome, our next-generations will live a vibrant and youthful life for over 120 years.” Mr Wayne Chan, co-founder and CEO of GUTolution, said. The firm launched their Next-gen Microbiome Health Program in March, which merged science and self-care into a one-stop holistic solution in the form of revolutionary health-intelligence as a service (“HIaaS”).
The programme is an innovative combination of three components: at-home microbiome test, health coaching apps and personalized supplements. Firstly, the customers complete their microbiome test with our innovative wipe-based test kit within minutes at home. Their stool sample is sent to our lab to conduct next-generation sequencing. Our in-house AI engine analyses customers’ unique gut microbiome and delivers quantified microbiome health reports and personalised diet and lifestyle recommendations via the GUTolution mobile app within two weeks.
At the same time, our lab tailor-makes a unique probiotic formula for each customer and manufactures personalised probiotics under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) with cold-shipping to customers’ door every month. Free gut test, free probiotics reformulation and free consultations with our nutritionist are offered every three months to track progress and ensure success in microbiome health transformation.
Listing the company’s unique selling points, Mr Chan said it offered a client-centred and holistic HIaaS that went beyond off-the-shelf supplements or one-off diagnostic test in the current market. In addition to the team, GUTolution also had a substantial pipeline of related research and development projects, in association with the University of Hong Kong and Baptist University. These included microbiome-based health intervention in the areas of sports performance, regenerative beauty and healthy aging.
The firm has also set up value-chain partnerships for sourcing, testing and retail with various industry leaders in Greater Bay Area and South East Asia. A regional health supplement brand Catalo will sign a memorandum of understanding with GUTolution at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s Asia Summit on Global Health in May to push forward their strategic partnership. GUTolution will also exhibit at ASGH in 2023, and did so in 2022.
As a survivor of a debilitating gut-related illness, the 10-year self-healing journey provided Mr Chan, the CEO of GUTolution, first-hand user insights and the mission to free people from unnecessary suffering. He has a bachelor degree in finance and marketing from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and finished a master degree in information management systems at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, specialising in artificial intelligence. He is currently a candidate for an MSc in Medical Science from the University of Hong Kong, specialising in neuroscience.
His co-founders, are Wilson Chang, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, is an Actuarial Science graduate from CUHK and has also served as the CEO of a family owned multinational company and has invested in a wide range of SMEs. His extensive experience in product development and operation management put the business into practice. The third team member is Mr James Chan, Chief Marketing Officer, is a graduate of City University Hong Kong who has a track record in digital marketing and app development. He is currently an MBA candidate at HKU.
“Our team is also supported by medical doctors and biotech professors as our official scientific advisors and we are now drafting our long-term R&D roadmap to extend our R&D partnership to institutional level,” Mr Wayne Chan said.
The project began in October 2021 and they launched the company in January 2023.
“We have launched our basic product (Next-gen Psychobiotics) in late 2022 with excellent feedback and we will launch our flagship product (Next-gen Microbiome Health Coaching Program) in late March this year,” Mr Chan said.
“We are a ‘luxury’ brand. We are ‘luxury’ in the sense that we did not limit ourselves ‘to cure disease’ but ‘to bring the best human’,” Mr Chan said. The start-up strives for providing the best HIaaS to push forward human’s performance and longevity. Apart from some common marketing channels, we focus on partnering with some leading institution, such national sport teams, top-tier wellness chain, renowned private hospital, to ‘build next-generation human together.”
GUTolution plans to enter mainland centres in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area by the end of this year and expanding into Southeast Asia, starting in Singapore, next year.
GUTolution is currently an incubatee in Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks and an HK Tech 300 Startup Team. It has received numerous awards in various renowned competitions including Hong Kong Techathlon 2022, HKUST-Sino One-million-dollar Entrepreneur Competition 2022. Mr Chan was also a speaker in BIOHK 2022.
Mr Chan said much remains to be discovered in the field of microbial health.
“For example, a study published in the journal Science in 2019 found that supplementing the diets of older mice with a probiotic containing Lactobacillus reuteri resulted in increased lifespan and improved cognitive function,” he said. “The researchers found that the bacteria produced a hormone called ghrelin, which has been shown to improve muscle function and delay age-related diseases in mice. While these findings are promising, it is important to know that the relationship between the microbiome and aging is still not fully understood, and the microbiome are still in the early stages of development, and much more research is needed before they can be recommended as effective anti-aging treatments.”
He sees GUTolution playing a role in empowering people to be able to live youthful, vibrant lives for as long as 120 years by harnessing the microbiome.
The products and services have received a positive reception locally and he credited this success to the cultural familiarity with fermented foods such as kimchi, growing research into microbiomes and rising health consciousness following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our microbial ecosystems develop over a lifetime – for example any parent will tell you that toddlers like to eat soil, a natural drive to seed their digestive tracts.
“In GUTolution, there are loads of complex inherited and environmental factors affecting the gut microbiome,” Mr Chan said. “The key is to develop a suitable gut-health habit to transform our microbe in long-term. Therefore, instead of giving you a bottle of probiotics, our microbiome health coach programme comes alive to serve as a personal coach to guide your through the personalised road to superhuman.”