Breaking it down to your genes

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on January 17, 2018

Reading the DNA Pranav Anam and Shiraz Siddique

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A cancer survivor and friend partner to offer nutrition and fitness recommendations based on your genetic make-up

“I’ve known him for 17 years,” says 33-year-old Pranav Anam of his friend and business partner Shiraz Siddique, whom he describes as a “hybrid combat athlete”. Shiraz runs marathons, is into martial arts, and has beaten back cancer three times.

Bonded by a common vision on fitness, Pranav and Shiraz co-founded The Gene Box (TGB), a health platform that analyses your genetic features and provides individualised counselling.

“I always knew I wanted to do something on my own,” says Shiraz, 39, reflecting the determination characteristic of a sportsperson. In 2004, Siraj was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 28. Going through the cycle of cancer treatment, Shiraz gave up working at a five star hotel to partner with Pranav. In fact, both of them were on the same track of wanting to work in the realm of nutrition, something they had come to understand well, recalls Pranav. Especially, since it was over weight-loss that they had met in the first place. Pranav was 135 kg when he was about 16 years old and Shiraz had helped bring it down to 83 kg.

Today, Pranav is a trained geneticist and Shiraz brings with him his knowledge of sport and fitness and they work together managing professional and corporate gyms. Buoyed by the confidence their clients had in them, they moved to combining nutrition and fitness with gene testing. And that led to the birth of TGB late last year. The gene test helps map what works or does not for an individual, says Pranav. And it is this insight (based on proven research) that sharpens their advice compared to regular nutrition counselling.

Explaining the need for personalised advice, he says, if five friends have the same diet, the outcomes would still be different for each. For instance, “contrary to popular belief, olive oil is bad for me,” says Pranav. And that’s what TGB attempts to do — give an insight into how much caffeine or sugar you can tolerate, for example. A saliva sample is taken in collection kits provided by TGB and set of tests (that are outsourced to a partner). The results are interpreted by TGB to give tailor-made recommendations. The test costs ₹25,000.

Shiraz takes it a step further for people with special needs including those with cancer, says Pranav. Presently, the recommendations are for metabolic and lifestyle illnesses. Shiraz says that the expertise has helped him understand his own body systems better in terms of lung capacity or injury repair. Assessing himself, he says, his body capability has been between “excellent and good”.

Something that is reflected in the way he has been combating cancer. In fact, Shiraz even counsels doctors and other patients during his own chemotherapy sessions, says Pranav. He tells doctors who are seen to be overweight, “I will survive, but will you,” says Pranav, amidst laughter.

Published on July 08, 2016

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