by Carol Milano

A simple new test will soon let consumers match cosmetics and dietary supplements to their personal genetic profiles.

The recently patented DNA Collection Kit (TM), developed by GeneLink, Inc., measures genetic ability to handle oxidative stress, by looking at specific single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). "We can customize your skin care and nutrition!" declares John DePhilippo, president of GeneLink. "Our business model is to license people to do the test at near-cost (under $100)." A lab will analyze results of a DNA sample obtained by a simple cheek swab--at an in-store cosmetics counter, for example --and return a genetic profile within a week. The Margate, NJ firm is collaborating with two other companies on products to counter oxidative stress deficiency, which may lead to wrinkling and skin aging.

Currently negotiating with eight major nutritional and skin care manufacturers and distributors (including some who sell to retail pharmacies or supermarkets with pharmacy departments), DePhilippo expects to announce initial orders between January and March.

"This is a whole new category of SNP products, which will be scientifically formulated," notes Jan DiBenedetto, Vice President for Marketing, Garden State Nutritionals, which sells ingredients for dietary supplements to over 150 brands. He works closely with GeneLink to determine which SNPs have more dermatological or nutritional value in the marketplace.
GeneLink's test is, essentially, an identification tool for the genetic markers, says George Polson, Technology Manager, Arch Personal Care Products. "Cosmetics companies will make the products containing our ingredients--gels, skin creams, lotions-- tailored to an individual customer's needs, shown genetically." Arch sells anti-oxidants, natural botanicals for environmental protection and other ingredients related to DNA markers, to leading cosmetics manufacturers.

Is the underlying science sound? "A number of genes play a role in regulating oxidative stress in organisms. The test is trying to find out if these genes harbor mutations that would affect these activities," explains microbial genetics specialist Scott Leisner, PhD, associate professor of Biology, University of Toledo. "It makes some sense for skin care and nutritional supplements. If you can figure out which enzymes are not working the way they're supposed to bu using this test, it will allow you to supplement for that lost activity."

GeneLink chose a good area, says John Cardellina, PhD, Vice President for Botanical Science, Council for Responsible Nutrition. "Many Americans buy vitamins and botanicals as anti-oxidants--a fast-growing product group because its benefits have been recognized. We can pick products (like Vitamin C and E) to help deal with oxidative stress. The test is a feasible way to demonstrate custom-tailoring based on a person's genetics, and one of the first realistic steps, where we'll see it in consumers."


Jerry Hickey, RPh, owner of two Hickey Chemists stores in New York City, calls GeneLink's test "a savvy, legitimate marketing tool. If we can demonstrate a client's genetic predisposition to oxidative stress, and explain what a low pool of available antioxidants means to their longevity, it becomes clear that potent anti-oxidant nutrients are desirable. It will give any pharmacy the most current technology for assessing patient risk, while building a strong market."
"This will get consumers talking to their pharmacists about what products they should be taking," agrees Cardellina

Will customers opt for the one-time test at GeneLink's anticipated price, near $100? "Unfortunately, because of the cost only a small, select few would be willing to cough up the fee," Hickey believes. Consumers may show less price resistance at high-end cosmetics shops or pharmacies; costs should come down as the test becomes more widely available.

Despite the price, "it's an innovative idea, a futuristic approach, and a cleverly-designed first step into the genomic frontier," declares Cardellina.

NOTE: For more details, see under "Breakthrough Genetic Profiling".

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