NBA player Omri Casspi invests in gut analysis startup for better diet

DayTwo’s app told the basketball star what to eat before a game, and now he’s convinced that millions can be helped by custom nutrition recommendations based on bacteria profiling

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Omri Casspi of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a slam dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers during an NBA basketball game on December 25, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP)
Omri Casspi of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a slam dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers during an NBA basketball game on December 25, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP)

Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi has invested an undisclosed amount of money in the DayTwo startup, which has developed a way to match what we eat to the bacteria in our gut.

The basketball star’s investment will help the Hod Hasharon-based company recruit an additional 10 people to expand activities in professional sports in the US, especially in the NBA, and with health organizations that treat Type 2 diabetes, the company said in a statement.

DayTwo was founded in 2015 by billionaire Marius Nacht, who is also the founder of Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.; Yuval Ofek, the company’s chairman; Lihi Segal, the CEO; and Yair Schindel, the managing partner.

The startup, which has developed an app to provide customized nutrition recommendations based on an analysis of gut bacteria, has raised some $17 million to date, not including Casspi’s latest injection of funds. Its product, which includes a kit to analyze the microbiome of users and a smartphone app onto which a personalized diet is uploaded after the gut bacteria is analyzed, is based on five years of research conducted by Prof. Eran Segal and Prof. Eran Elinav from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. It appeared in the scientific journal Cell in 2015.

Among the company’s other investors are Johnson & Johnson, the US-based Mayo Clinic, and the French fund Seventure Partners and other private investors.

The researchers are “global experts on gut bacteria,” said Schindel in a phone interview. The 10 billion bacteria in the human gut, research has found, have as big an impact on people as their brains do, he said.

Omri Caspi, left, and DayTwo’s CEO Lihi Segal (Courtesy)

The researchers genetically sequenced the DNA of all of the bacteria of the gut and then created multiple profiles of people based on their bacteria. This profiling allows users to balance their blood sugar levels after a meal, using the bacteria profiling and other personal parameters. This is good for everyone, not just diabetes patients, and of course for athletes, whose performances are also based on what they ingest.

Their study showed that different people eating the same foods can have different sugar — or glycemic — responses, depending on the kind of gut bacteria they have. So, for example, two people with two different kind of bacteria could have two completely different glycemic responses to eating something as simple as an apple.

To get a personalized diet, users need to provide a sample of their stools via a kit that gets sent and picked up by a courier. The samples get analyzed and after that  ta personalized menu is uploaded to the app.

Last year the company started helping tailor customized diets for players on Israel’s national basketball team.

Casspi, who last played for the Golden State Warriors, decided to invest in DayTwo after using the product himself and changing his diet according to the company’s recommendations.

He said that before every game he’d eat the pasta and tomato sauce recommended by dietitians, but the app revealed that the meal did not meet his personal needs. “Today, thanks to the technology, I maintain a much more balanced diet in terms of body sugar levels and it helps my needs as a professional athlete. I feel more alert, sharp, and there are no sugar level drops during the game. My level of energy is high and I recover far better after the games.”

“Having experienced the benefits of this scientific breakthrough, I am happy to be able to invest in technology” and help spread its message around the world, he said. “I am convinced we have tremendous potential to help millions of people around the world.”

DayTwo is starting a clinical trial in Israel and the US to show that its product can help diabetes patients keep their sugar levels stable, said Schindel. The company is also expanding its team of employees. For its product the firm uses a mix of machine learning, predictive modeling and big data.

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