The business consists of two parts, the ‘front-end’ (Vitmedics) which offers personalised dietary and supplement requirements and supplement subscription service, as well as the ‘back-end’ (Vitcheck) which is the database and algorithm.
The company is looking to franchise both sides of its business to customers ranging from supplement manufacturers, retailers to pharmacies.
Judges of the NutraIngredients-Asia Awards commended “the clever and pragmatic approach of the initiative, and strong evidence of its ability to meet consumer needs.”
Michael Wakeman, founder of Vitmedics was pleased with the win: “We're really delighted with this important award. To win this accolade is so rewarding, especially as it was endorsed by such an expert judging panel. It's the culmination of five years of academic research for my PhD into personalised medicine, especially the under-recognised negative impact that medications can have on nutritional status.”
The company is looking to roll out its platform and technology in APAC countries like New Zealand and Australia as medications and supplements there are very similar to the UK, making it easier to expand its database.
Watch the video to hear from Wakeman on what the award means to him and the franchising model for the business.
From PhD to commercialisation
The company was founded in 2015, to commercialise the research that Wakeman did for his PhD. As a pharmacist with a Masters in nutritional medicine, Wakeman discovered that the effect of medications on nutritional status were under-reported and under-recognised.
He recently published a research paper looking at the impact of a common diabetic drug, metformin, on vitamin B12 levels in the body.
His review examined that metformin use was associated with decreased Vitamin B12 status, which leads to increased risk of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which affects 40 to 50% of patients with diabetes.
He explained that most healthcare professionals assume that neuropathy is a complication of diabetes but failed to understand that it might in fact be caused by the complication of the medication prescribed which resulted in vitamin B12 deficiency.
The findings were published in the Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, Dove Press.
Another recent study from Wakeman also examined the effect of oral contraceptives pills on folate levels.
Published in Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research, it was observed that the pill often impairs folate levels which for non-pregnant females is fine. But for women trying for a baby right after coming off the pill, it was alarming since folic acid is important for preventing neural tube defects in the foetus.
Typically it takes several months for folic acid levels to recover to where they should be after stopping the pill. “So, if people get pregnant within the first three months. It's likely that their folic acid levels are going to be deficient.”
Besides folate, the pill also affects selenium and zinc levels.
Wakeman said: “This is the perfect opportunity for pharmacists, to make a recommendation to women getting their contraceptive pills to also get a multivitamin or folate acid supplement.”
His research identified over 1,000 references, with around 4,000 incidences where medications can impact upon nutritional status.
“When I looked at this with healthcare professionals, I realised it’s an area that they know very little about. I was keen to develop a greater awareness amongst healthcare professionals of the impact that the drugs that they were prescribing could have upon nutritional status.”
The ‘front-end’ - Vitmedics
Vidmedics launched its ‘front-end’ platform in the UK earlier this year, targeting consumers. Consumers take an approximately two minutes questionnaire on demographic, physical characteristics, lifestyle, diet, and current medications.
The results are generated as a report, recommending personalised dietary and supplement requirements.
The report is presented in the form of a traffic light system, for example, red meant the nutrient was deficient and that the individual would require a supplement, amber for moderating increasing an intake of a specific food to provide that nutrient, and green for recommended but not necessary supplements.
There is a hyperlink to every evidence used to generate recommendations for consumers to validate the tool. “It’s important not only for consumers to justify and trust the information that we are giving, but also for medical professionals to see that we are making robust recommendations.”
Wakeman explained that consumers can bring the results to a pharmacist or practitioner to purchase the supplements, or they can buy the supplements directly on the Vitmedics platform.
Vidmedics offers its products as a subscription service where customers will get their supplements for a month’s supply and cancel anytime.
“We've had a lot of positive feedback from the people who've used it, they all say it's very simple to use. And they all feel that the recommendations that they've been given is founded on good science which is really important.”
Apart from consumers, Wakeman is in the process of developing a professional option of Vitmedics for GPs, pharmacists, dieticians and nutritionists.
The ‘back-end’ - Vitcheck
He is also hoping to franchise VitCheck, the ‘back-end’ of comprising the database and algorithm.
“For instance, in pharmacies, the algorithm (Vitcheck) can be aligned to the dispensing prescription. This way, when a pharmacist is dispensing a prescription, they can also recommend supplements to consumers with the validated data.”
The database contains every over the counter and prescription medications in the UK, both by generic and brand name, except cancer medication.
Wakeman said pushing the tool into Australia and New Zealand would be suitable, because “their formulas are very similar to the ones that are available in the UK and being Commonwealth countries, a lot of the over the counter medications are very similar as well. So, we can expand the database easily.”
Its ingredients are sourced in UK and Germany and produced and packed by a pharmaceutical GMP manufacturer in UK.
The company also has an environmental focus. All its supplements are packaged in compostable pouches. Wakeman said even its supplier in Germany is carbon neutral.