We talked to Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson of Seraphina Therapeutics about the recently launched fatty15, and this is what she had to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: Well, like many others, we are appreciative of what we have and are truly grateful for all the essential workers who are keeping the world running. As co-founders of two startup companies, my husband and I have been able to stay productive due to so much time together at home. In addition to cherishing this time with my family, I have also greatly improved my pillow fighting skills.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Seraphina Therapeutics.
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Seraphina Therapeutics, a health & wellness company that recently launched fatty15, an emerging lifestyle brand bringing to-market the first science-backed, a once-daily dietary supplement containing the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years, C15:0 (pronounced, see-fifteen). Fatty15 aims to help us replenish our critical C15:0 body levels to maintain and support our general health, especially with aging.
As a veterinary epidemiologist, I discovered C15:0 when helping the US Navy care for their dolphins, which now live 50% longer than their wild counterparts. Drawing parallels in the health of these dolphins and humans, we found that C15:0, a trace saturated fatty acid found in butter and some types of fish, was essential to maintaining and promoting healthy cells and healthy aging.
Building off of these discoveries, together with my Navy physician husband, Eric, we kick-started our parent company, Epitracker, Inc., and spinout company, Seraphina Therapeutics, to develop new consumer products, food ingredients, and therapeutics to enable healthy aging in both dolphins and humans.
How does Seraphina Therapeutics innovate?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: Our work is challenging the current approach to health and aging by using advanced technologies (like metabolomics) to understand which of the thousands of small molecules in our diet and bodies are essential to protecting our health as we age. One of our first discoveries was C15:0 as a beneficial saturated fat that, science supports, we need to stay healthy. Worldwide studies have repeatedly demonstrated that higher C15:0 levels in our bodies are associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, obesity, and inflammation. Our own studies have shown that fatty15 (containing FA15TM, a pure powder form of C15:0) naturally raises C15:0 body levels and activates key receptors that balance immunity, metabolism, mood, appetite, and sleep. Fatty15 also reduces inflammation, cholesterol, and glucose in models of diabetes and alleviates anemia and liver fibrosis in models of liver disease. Separating the good saturated fats from the bad, for the first time in history, fatty15 works to protect both our body and mind health from the stressors of chronic disease and aging.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: Health and wellness have been on the top of everyone’s minds this past year, including the importance of maintaining or regaining our baseline metabolic and immune health. In addition, getting optimal sleep and reducing stress has become increasingly important, and fatty15 can help support people’s metabolic, immune, mood, and sleep needs during these trying times. Since fatty15 is available online, people are able to get it without having to leave the house. While we are glad to have a product that may help people better cope with being cooped up, we can’t wait until friends and family can hug again.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: With the many promising health benefits we published about C15:0 (aka fatty15) in Scientific Reports, we initially thought to advance it only as a prescription therapeutic targeting specific metabolic and inflammatory conditions. Given the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the additive impact of underlying poor global health and growing numbers of older people, we recognized a greater, immediate need for fatty15 as a consumer-based health and wellness option to restore C15:0 levels and support general health, especially with age. We are also advancing FA15TM, our pure powder form of C15:0, as a food ingredient and will continue to assess the role of C15:0 as a prescription therapeutic to enable physicians to treat related nutritional deficiencies.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Seraphina Therapeutics in the future?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: While my husband and I are co-founders of two startup companies, we are also a military family. During the height of the conflict in Afghanistan, Eric was deployed to one of the most dangerous regions. We also had a rambunctious 2-year old at home. Needless to say, during that time and since, we have developed important perspectives about stress and anxiety, as well as how to quickly adapt to changing environments, which have enabled us to ride along with the ups and downs of starting up new companies. Additionally, our careers with the military have taught us the importance of rapidly translating science into meaningful products that improve health. Fatty15 is our first consumer health product, and we have an exciting pipeline of many more discovered molecules that aim to improve our general health, as well as help, treat some of the world’s most devastating diseases.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: Our primary competitors are the other two essential fatty acids, omega-3, and omega-6. We plan to stay in the game by showcasing how essential fatty acids were discovered 90 years ago versus how we discover them today. While omega-3s and omega-6s (specifically, 𝛼-linolenic acid and linoleic acid) were deemed to be essential during 1929 based on depleting mice of these nutrients and observing that they had poorer skin and hair, Seraphina is using advanced metabolomics to study thousands of small molecules in the bodies of humans and other long-lived mammals to determine which molecules:-
- Come primarily from our diet.
- Have been associated with poor health if body levels are depleted across populations.
- Actively restore health once that molecule’s levels are replenished in the body.
As a result, while omega fatty acids’ health benefits have been inconsistent, the evidence of C15:0 (aka fatty15) as being truly essential to supporting and maintaining our metabolic, immune, liver, mood, and sleep health is remarkably consistent across a wide variety of global studies.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson: For the past century, we have been caught in old ways of determining which nutrients we need to maintain our health and how we approach discovering new drugs to treat diseases. As a result, no new essential fatty acids or vitamins have been discovered for over 50 years. Population health has been declining, and we continue to have no cures for some of the world’s most devastating diseases. But innovation is all about thinking outside the box. By changing long-held paradigms to drug discovery, biotech startups are now offering new, promising ways to cure diseases and rapidly develop vaccines. Through Seraphina, we are proud to challenge long-held approaches to nutrition, enabling us to discover a whole new world of natural molecules – already in our bodies – that were meant to protect our health all along.