CHPA Chat - Self-Care for All: The Movement Towards Personalized Health and Wellness

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Episode Summary

Today, more than 80% of Americans use natural products such as nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. And these industries continue to rapidly grow. Proof of effectiveness has never been more important, but of course, that's sometimes easier said than done and one size doesn't necessarily fit all. The opportunity to bring inclusion and diversity principles into medical research and to personalize products to an increasingly diverse population has the potential to enable better public health policies and access to treatments. In today's podcast we'll dive deep into the movement towards personalized, data-backed health and wellness treatments.



Episode Transcript

Speaker 1: The views expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. 

Allegra Bartscherer: Today, more than 80% of Americans use natural products such as nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. And these industries continue to rapidly grow. Proof of effectiveness has never been more important, but of course, that's sometimes easier said than done and one size doesn't necessarily fit all. The opportunity to bring equity and diversity into medical research and to personalize products to an increasingly diverse population has the potential to enable better public health policies and treatments. 

In today's podcast we'll dive deep into the movement towards personalized proven health and wellness treatments. 

Speaker 3: Welcome to CHPA Chat, conversations in the consumer healthcare industry. 

Allegra Bartscherer: Hello, listeners. Welcome to today's podcast. I'm Allegra Bartscherer, CHPA's Director of Member Engagement and Marketing. And here with me today is Radicle Science's Pelin Thorogood and co-founder and executive chair. And Susan Hewlings, Vice President Research Affairs. Pelin, Susan, welcome to CHPA Chat. So to get us started, can you just talk a little bit about each of your backgrounds and what brought you here? 

Pelin Thorogood: This is Pelin. Let me start. So my background is data and analytics. I've been in tech most of my career and engineer by education and a tech executive by career. Started Radicle Science with my co-founder Dr. Jeff Chen about three years ago. And we are industry's first proof as a service company offering wellness products, including dietary supplements, history's first easy path to clinically prove their true effects. 

So in essence, we have productized clinical proof generation, keeping all the rigor, double-blind placebo controlled model, but leveraging an AI driven crowdsource model to really bring in unprecedented speed, affordability, and scale to the process. 

Susan Hewlings: I'm Sue Hewlings. Thanks for having me today. And my background, I have a PhD in nutrition and a master's in exercise physiology. I'm a registered dietician and I've spent the majority of my career in academia where I learned a lot about research techniques and research methods, et cetera, and always did consulting in the dietary supplement, nutrition, food, beverage, and medical food spaces. And over the last ten years, I've been a consultant in the dietary supplement space and also worked for CRO. 

And within those jobs, I've done a lot of different things, a lot of different writing, substantiation, research design, all surrounding evidence-based supplements and providing science behind claims. So the goal always being, regardless of the outcome, connecting science to claims and the processes in between. It could be from ideation to market or for products that were already on the market and even some formulation in design. 

And always with the goal of transparency and science driven information for the consumer. It kind of ties in my educational background. At Radicle Science, I'm happy to be a part of what is going on there and my role is to work with potential clients from start to finish and also to work within Radicle to connect sales, marketing and science. So I'm happy to be here today. Thanks for having me. 

Allegra Bartscherer: That's great. No, this idea of connecting science to claims is so important. So I want to take us, a quick step backwards and just have you walk us through what democratizing healthcare really means. 

Pelin Thorogood: This is Pelin. So let me give you my perspective on what I believe democratizing healthcare really means. And to me it really all starts with access. And for the consumers it starts by access to healthcare, regardless of geographical or socioeconomic barriers you may have. So making sure that anyone can have access to clinical trials so they can understand what may work for their unique bodies and conditions regardless of where they live, regardless of their life stage, regardless of their lifestyle. 

It also means [inaudible 00:04:31] financial barriers for businesses so they can actually have access to science. So they're able to actually understand and being able to formulate the best products, not just for the average population, but being able to actually really create targeted formulations again for different people, different conditions. So the goal for me is really driving towards precision medicine or personalized medicine. 

And that has really multiple benefits that obviously benefits us as consumers, as people, but to me it also as a massive benefit of helping with public health. So that public health policy can be really defined based on understanding the entire population needs, based on rigorous health data for the entire population. 

Susan Hewlings: I think I'd like to add to that too. I think a big part of democratizing healthcare is also democratizing the educational information that is derived from the trials. So it really is the whole chain of events, if you will. So we're going to talk in more detail about that but I think it's the idea of making sure that the information we're providing to the consumer is democratized. Everybody understands it. It's reachable. 

It is backed by science, meaning that it's transparent and evident. And so it's the idea that from all aspects of deriving the science to communicating the science is democratized. 

Allegra Bartscherer: No, absolutely. I think that this idea of access combined with health literacy are such huge cornerstones to the work that you do. And even CHPA, our mission is to empower self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products. So that right there, I mean, is all about access. And as you mentioned Susan, we'll talk a little bit more about the barriers and how those can be removed. 

But what I want to do is pivot a little bit and obviously diversity, equity and inclusion are so important and have become key themes with really everything that we do today. But what does it mean in the realm of health? 

Pelin Thorogood: Let me kick that off because I have an interesting angle to it from my data background. So the way I got into the world of healthcare and clinical trials is really by, after being in the world of tech and running a tech company, I became a philanthropist funding clinical trials. And what I realized is because clinical trials were so expensive, we had very small populations. 

And statistically when you have a smaller population, you want to actually keep the population looking somewhat similar so that the data that comes out of it, you can actually analyze it and find statistical significance, which makes perfect sense mathematically. What it doesn't do is actually translate into generalizable data. So basically what I realized that many of the clinical trials, while for the population they were studying, which may have been a specific gender, specific age groups, major inclusion-exclusion criteria were applicable to that small segment, but were not necessarily generalizable to the rest of the population. 

That was actually one of the reasons I wanted to start Radicle Science and be able to study large populations, which is when diversity and inclusion really come into play. Want to be able to study everyone, want to be able to study men, women, ethnicities, different age groups, different lifestyles that may come based on potentially where people live. So all of these are important elements because different products, different foods, different supplements, different pharmaceuticals affect people differently. 

So to me, their purpose behind diversity and inclusion is really ensuring we understand the effects of all of these products and everything we take, how they may affect different people differently. And basically realize that the current clinical trial model wasn't doing that and so it wasn't serving most of us properly. So that's the perspective of a data scientist realizing that small data does not serve the population. 

Allegra Bartscherer: And so I just want to quickly interject, Pelin, this notion of the clinical trials. So how is it possible to achieve that diversity and equity in every aspect of a clinical trial from design to recruitment, execution and then to communicating the science to the market application? 

Pelin Thorogood: Let Sue start with it since she is the scientist, I definitely have my perspectives, but I'd love to have her kick it off. 

Susan Hewlings: I think that you bring up a good point, Allegra, in the fact that it really does have to be at every aspect. So that it has to start with your formulation, your R&D, which should be research driven, research informed. It has to incorporate your study design, which then connects to inclusion and exclusion criteria. And the other thing to consider is recruitment. So one of the advantages we have in our model at Radicle is that we can recruit people from literally everywhere. 

Because our trials are decentralized and we can utilize social media and other means to reach people that would otherwise never have a chance to participate in a trial, whether it be a trial for dietary supplements or drugs, et cetera. We just wouldn't necessarily be able to gather data on them. When we talk about diversity and inclusion, we automatically think about, of course, as we should, ethnicity and gender. But there's so much more to it than that. 

And one of the things I think that I really started realizing when I started learning the details of the Radicle model was, "Wow, we can now include people that live in rural areas of the US. That would otherwise never have access to get to a lab or a CRO or a university. Also, people that work who wouldn't normally have time, if they have families and jobs and they're coaching and doing all the things that people do. They would in the past never have the time to go and participate in a trial." 

So now we can include those people as well. So I think those are the aspects of diversity inclusion that a lot of people don't think about that get missed in traditional trials. 

Pelin Thorogood: Let me add a couple of things to that. That was awesome. And yes, so really that element of being decentralized or virtual so that you are able to include everyone regardless of where they live, how they live, and all their backgrounds. So that's truly inclusive. Also making it low touch. You don't want it to take so much time. Again, working people, people with disabilities, et cetera. You want to make sure this takes as little time as possible and is easy so that anyone including the elderly can actually do it. 

In the process of recruitment, you want to make sure that you can leverage technology to have the appropriate quotas for gender, for ethnicities, for perhaps rural populations, et cetera, to ensure inclusion is actually easy and tech enabled. Those are elements that really enable us to get a diverse population as well as really get to large populations. 

So to me, it's element of tech and really being able to leverage technology to make it easy, accessible, low touch, all of these elements become much easier with technology and enables that diversity and inclusion element to be more of a, "Of course we can do it. It's already part of the plan." 

Allegra Bartscherer: No, that's great. And I think that that provides some good food for thought when we think about the recruitment as it relates to inclusion and diversity for clinical trials. As a quick follow up to lowering the barriers of access to be able to participate in these kinds of studies, can you elaborate on lowering the barriers in your attempts to communicate outwards the results to the masses? 

Pelin Thorogood: One thing I love that we do and we've gotten great feedback on is the fact that we un-blind all of our participants, and that's actually how we incentivize them. I would call that intrinsic motivation, so that they are joining a study to learn about their own health and they know they're going to get their results, which first of all makes them more excited to join, makes them more likely to complete the study and be more accurate in it. 

But then they get results, they get analyzed information in their hands that they can use for themselves or share with their healthcare providers. Going back to that point around literacy, consumer literacy, we're talking about. That to me is so, so, so important because by doing so, we are really empowering the consumer to become more skeptical buyer of the variety of products. They understand the process behind clinical trials. They don't just trust science blindly, they understand the critical evaluation of the scientific model. 

They become citizen scientists at the end of the day. So to us, that's a really, really important element of, again, diversity and inclusion. So we bring this kind of thinking, the diversity of thinking to the consumer as well. So we don't just give them information, we tell them how we collect it and how it may actually affect them individually, uniquely. 

Susan Hewlings: And I think another key aspect to Pelin's point is also that the participants are engaging in our trials from their real lives and from their homes. I mean, this is real world application, just like they would be if they were actually taking this supplement as the end consumer. So it's really real world application, which to me is also an aspect of the diversity and inclusion. We don't have them in a lab or university, et cetera. They're in their homes, and that's a huge part of it, I think. 

Pelin Thorogood: Thank you for bringing that up actually. I think there's plenty of data out there that so many pharmaceutical drugs, which have been through multiple stages of clinical trials in these artificial settings, they don't necessarily have the same efficacy when they're used in the real world. They may not have the same adherence. People may be using it at different times with different products, et cetera. 

So that real world usage is so important and that's going to be the real impact that actually gives to people. While absolutely the traditional clinical trial model is still very, very important and relevant, real world clinical trials are I think what's the most relevant element to us, the individual consumer. 

Allegra Bartscherer: That's great. So speaking of barriers to access, how do you remove barriers for brands to access RCTs? Pelin Thorogood: 

For the non-pharmaceutical world, the primary barriers for brands has really been around cost and speed. Clinical trials traditionally have been created for the world of pharmaceuticals, which are traditionally patentable. For the non-patentable, non-pharmaceutical, the very high cost and lengthy process behind clinical trials have made them really out of reach. So to us, the most important part about democratizing access to clinical trials has been how can we reduce their costs significantly, not by a few percentage points, but significantly? 

And how can we make them so much faster so that we can get the data earlier, we can actually iterate on the information we received? And this is where again, technology comes into play. By being able to productize clinical proof generation, you can bring in 10X speed improvements. You can make the cost one tenth the cost of before, while still being able to generate double-blind rigorous data. 

And not to mention, be able to actually have the large populations, the diverse inclusive populations so that your data can be generalizable. So it's really about making it faster, cheaper, and being able to make it scalable and to be able to do all of the above. It's really important to be able to incorporate technology into it and really productize a process that has been bespoke to date. 

Allegra Bartscherer: So then where do we go from here? What is the future of diversity and inclusion? 

Susan Hewlings: Diversity inclusion and conversations like this are really important for moving things forward. And I think we all know that firsthand because at least in my career, I've seen this conversation change, improve and go from conversations to actual action. And I think the idea that diversity inclusion means bringing down barriers, not just to access to pharmaceuticals, but to access for people to take health into their own hands and to make their own health decisions. 

Because I think when we first started talking about it from the healthcare perspective, we thought about it like, "Well, so that people have access to treatment, right?" Access to doctors and healthcare practitioners. But now we're having the conversation talk about people from everywhere of all different races, genders and locations, being able to access trustworthy scientific information so that they can make their own health decisions. And to me, that's where it's going in the future. 

It's going to be more personalized and sometimes it's easy to think of that meaning, "Okay, so then the physicians and the healthcare practitioners will be able to make an individual decision about a patient." But to me it means "No, the healthcare practitioner and the person can make that decision together." And that's where I hope that this goes in the future. And I really do believe that it is. And I think that what we're talking about from the realm of big data and making sure that everybody's included in gathering said data is a big part of that. 

Pelin Thorogood: And in addition to personalized medicine elements, it's of course also about public health. How can we say we have true health equity if we don't study the entire population, if we don't understand the impact of a variety of interventions and their interactions with each other, with food, et cetera, on the entire population? So to me, this is a big public health issue, public health policy issue. And actually it's also a big dollars and cents issue, and that affects every single person. 

There was an amazing report put together by NASEM, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, last year presented to the US Congress. That talked about the financial impact of the lack of diversity and inclusion in clinical trials and how it impacted everything from disabilities, people missing work, people dying earlier, just overall financial impact. We're not even talking about the humanitarian impact, but the financial impact to the US GDP. 

So the point is, it is not just the right thing to do, it's also the financially right thing to do. And to me, whenever you get both of those things together, I feel like there is a promising future. 

Allegra Bartscherer: What a great example of taking healthcare personally. Before we wrap up, I just wanted to kind of open the floor to any final insights. 

Pelin Thorogood: For me, I couldn't be more excited about where we are. Being able to lower the barriers to access to both the consumers so they can be better informed about their healthcare, improve their health literacy, as well as lowering the barriers for brands, especially non-pharmaceutical brands, which were until recently, it was much harder, much more expensive for them to be able to do the science they wanted to do. 

We're basically creating the kind of rich health data that we all need, both for that precision medicine, personalized medicine approach, as well as for public health. And we have the technology and we have the will to go there. So I couldn't be more excited. And our progress over the last few years, having studied over 40,000 Americans in just a couple of years since our launch, having achieved gender parity in that timeframe, having studied over 20% of our clinical trials, populations have included ethnicities, rural populations. 

So really bring that diversity in already makes me feel very excited and makes me feel very hopeful about the future. 

Susan Hewlings: For me, I think it's a great time in healthcare in general. I think we've been through some unprecedented years when it comes to healthcare globally. And I think that if we had to bring something positive out of the pandemic, is just that. It kind of brought us together globally to think about that we actually do have connected health goals across the globe. And that we all have a renewed awareness for how important health is and how delicate it is. 

And how we're all in it together to prevent illness and to optimize health so that people from everywhere have the opportunity for optimal quality of life. Because I think that's an important part of it, that we don't want to... Health is not just the absence of illness, it's also quality of life and optimal quality of life. And the fact that everybody has the right to that and we can connect that to everybody. And I think that studying large populations and communicating the information that's discovered to the large populations is an important part of that. 

And I'm excited to be part of the dietary supplement industry for that reason because I feel like we are breaking down barriers. So thank you and thank you for conversations like this because they're really important part of that. 

Allegra Bartscherer: Thank you. 

Pelin Thorogood: Love that, Susan. And really, at the end of the day, there's all this conversation about longevity and lifespan and things like that, but really the focus should be on health span and making that accessible to anyone at a personalized level. So with products and combinations of products that are proven to work for, there again, unique bodies and unique conditions. 

So we have the technology, we have the will, we have the ability to do it. It's really up to us and I know we can. So very exciting times ahead to improve health span for all of us. 

Allegra Bartscherer: That's great. Susan, Pelin, thank you so much for our conversation today. Real people, real lives, real world application. I think you gave us a lot to think about today. To our listeners, thank you so much for joining us. You can learn more at I'm Allegra Bartscherer. Signing off. Have a great rest of your day. 

Speaker 3: Thank you for joining us here at CHPA Chat. For more information and to hear our entire catalog of shows, please visit




Pelin Thorogood Headshot
Pelin Thorogood
Co-founder & Executive Chair, Radicle Science
Susan J. Hewlings, Ph.D. RD Headshot
Susan J. Hewlings, Ph.D. RD
Vice President of Research Affairs, Radicle Science

The views expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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