AI, Microbiomes and the Future of Health

Biology is experiencing its AI moment in a big way. Huge amounts of information – sequencing, imaging, and patient data – coupled with powerful compute and AI models are driving discovery and R&D. McKinsey estimates that breakthroughs in biology over the next ten to twenty years will have a direct economic impact of $2-4 trillion globally per year.

This week, I spoke to a founder who is riding the AI biology wave. His mission: to provide people with personalised nutritional guidance based on their unique gut microbiome data and machine learning.

Jonathan Wolf is the CEO and co-founder of ZOE, a health-tech company that combines new biological research and machine learning to offer users hyper-specific advice about their food intake. By tailoring your diet to the idiosyncrasies of your gut, ZOE says, you can avoid inflammation, improve your energy levels, better control your weight, and reduce your risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

ZOE is fascinating for several reasons. The company counts highly-esteemed scientists among its staff, and publishes scientific research in top journals, carrying out studies many times faster than is usual within academia. Jonathan’s background is in high-growth internet companies, and he helps ZOE mix the rigour of the academe with the blitzscaling approach of a consumer internet startup. The company’s methods might just lay the foundation for an entirely new way of doing science, and no one can explain them better than him.

You can listen to my conversation with Jonathan Wolf here, or read a full transcript here.

The Big Idea

After we eat a meal, the concentration of certain substances in our blood changes: glucose, insulin, types of fat, and so on. Everyone experiences a version of that change, known as a postprandial response.

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