Kalleberg and Age Labs - Epigenetics and how to age like a fine wine
A Canary in a Coal Mine
By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen, published 23 September, 2022
“I do things I’m interested in”, Karl Trygve explains, referring to his diverse, and impressive, resume. His most recent endeavour is using the combined power of biobanks and machine learning to help people stay healthier longer.
Karl Trygve Kalleberg is one of those people who can operate at a high level in vastly different fields. When doing something he goes all in. As a foodie he takes it to the next level, using his pastime traveling around the globe eating at the best restaurants in the world. This holds true in his professional life as well. As an informatician he has built trading systems for Wall Street, finance systems for DNB and has a long history in data analysis. But computer science is only one side of his professional coin. Karl Trygve is also a medical doctor, with background from two of the major hospitals in Norway, Bergen and Oslo University Hospitals. Being an expert with both computers and people Karl Trygve is in a unique position to bring innovation into the health space. And this is exactly the current aim of his work. Combining his two alter egos as an informatician and physician he is working on what he refers to as not the sexiest of problems – age- and age-related disease.
Almost all disease is age-related, where both frequency and severity of the disease increase with age, he explains. Consequently, the disease becomes more challenging to treat and hence requires more resources. “The best tactic is avoiding getting sick in the first place”, Karl Trygve states. Age-related disease is already a major load on the health care system, and it is only expected to increase in the future as the average Norwegian grows older. “We need to shift more of our focus to make sure healthy people stay healthy. This is what we are trying to do at Age Labs.” He says, referring to the company he is CEO and co-founder of.
An aging population is not unique to Norway, and the domain of aging and preventative medicine is growing internationally. This field has the overarching goal of increasing the “healthspan” rather than, or in addition to, the lifespan of a person. In other words, the field wants to help people stay healthier for longer, and it is in this space Age Labs operates.
Happy aging Karl Trygve
At Age Labs they are trying to find new biomarkers that can bring new information about what is going on within the cells of the body. Specifically, they are looking at epigenetics. “Research suggests that the body knows it’s getting sick, and so it is trying to adapt by changing the genes expressed” Karl Trygve explains. “Eventually, the body cannot cope with the disease and at this stage you can start to measure damage in the body”. In other words, at this stage the body shows signs of disease. “What is exciting about epigenetics is that, while you can’t do anything about the genes you are born with, the epigenetics of the cell is a function of things you can do something about”, Karl Trygve explains, listing lifestyle choices and medicines as examples of factors of change. If you can catch early on that the epigenetics of the cell is shifting towards a pattern associated with disease, the patient can do something about it before the disease takes hold, he explains. In addition to enabling early detection of disease, epigenetic biomarkers can provide a new way of segmenting patient groups. Epigenetic signatures can look slightly different across patient groups of the same disease. Connection can be made between epigenetic signatures and treatment. “A medicine which isn’t successful for all patients could be beneficial for some”, he says.
Age Labs is in the works of building a biobank of epigenetic data. Today it contains information such as methylation patterns connected to a range of age-related diseases for at least fifty thousand patients around the world, with new profiles being added all the time. Using machine learning they can exploit these data, in combination with other biobanks like gene banks, to unveil biological characteristics and patterns at different disease stages and in different patient groups over time. Based on this, Age Labs is developing tests for early detection of disease, with a test designed for rheumatoid arthritis detection in the works. Within the next two years the hope is that this test is in the market, and that tests for other diseases are under development. “We have a stack of tests we hope to get to market, so we’re taking them one by one.”
While working full time at Age Labs, Karl Trygve still occasionally pokes his head into the hospital. “When working as an entrepreneur you sometimes lose track of why you’re doing what you’re doing” Karl Trygve explains, adding that when working everyday with patients you get a sense of instant gratification as you blatantly see who you’re helping and how you are helping them. Besides working with what interests him, it is important for Karl Trygve that his work is moving the world in the right direction. “The work needs to be meaningful, have application value, and solve a problem for someone”.
About Age Labs AS
Age Labs is a Norwegian life science company that discovers, develops and commercializes diagnostic tests for the early detection of age-related diseases. The pipeline includes a test for early detection of rheumatoid arthritis, a biological age predictor and a test predicting the severity of COVID-19 infection. Age Labs' service includes developing biomarkers for use in clinical trials and studying epigenetic drug effects.
ShareLab is a lab incubator with fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and will reinvest funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to fuel life science.
If you would like to know more, you may contact Johanne or the ShareLab Team via LinkedIn or other social media.