The following is a transcript of an interview by Oriana Kraft with Mette Dyhrberg, the founder of Mymee, a data-powered digital care program for people with autoimmunity and COVID long haul.
Could you give me some background on Mymee and the work you do?
I’m the founder of Mymee a digital coaching program for people with autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune diseases have a prevalence that skews over eighty percent female. It’s an issue that impacted one in four hundred people in our parents’ generation but now impacts one in five people instead. Today autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of death in women between fifteen to forty-five years old.
And how do you use data to improve health outcomes at Mymee?
Mymee is a data driven program. The data is the driver of any intervention that people are being given. Studies have shown that 80% of the immune system is determined by lifestyle and the environment. At a high level, our program collects and analyzes self-reported data about these different variables using a simple app to create a highly personalized health plan. The app is custom-tailored to each individual so whether you’re recording what food you ate, reporting your symptoms or tracking a runny nose – self-reporting becomes very easy. We take this body signaling and turn that noise into understanding by pinpointing the causalities between what you do and how it impacts your symptoms. Mymee’s approach is led by independently certified health coaches that have all been trained on how to use Mymee’s data platform to turn machine insights into a personalized plan. Our coaches are able to help you successfully pinpoint and then avoid your triggers through small doable changes made over time.
Could you give me some examples of what triggers could be?
Eighty-two percent of triggers are dietary. The remainder is environmental and lifestyle factors like toxins and stress. To date we have reversed symptoms in sixty-seven autoimmune diseases based on our protocol. When COVID came about it became very clear to us that for some people COVID acted as an accelerator of autoimmunity, resulting in such familiar, persistent symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, joint pain and aches.
Could you elaborate a bit on your work with COVID?
Essentially, we use our methodology to jump start the recovery process for COVID long haul. One of the things that’s come to light in our work with COVID long haulers since June 2020 is the role real-world evidence can have in targeting and reducing autoimmunity-related symptoms. Interventions based on real-world evidence can deliver immediate benefit and we’ve seen some great success using this approach to guide interventions based on finding personal food and lifestyle triggers. For example, we noticed that protein intake impacted the severity of symptoms for a lot of patients. As a trusted performance partner of Mount Sinai, we’re also working with patients at their post-COVID Recovery Clinic to help with recovery.
Do you believe the fact that autoimmune disorders primarily impact women has had an impact on the lack of innovation in curing autoimmune disorders?
Unfortunately, I do believe that it is very much linked. I’m astounded that we could have diseases in the US go from impacting one in four hundred people to one in five and have no alarm bells go off. We are in a position where women are being told it’s all in their head for five to seven years before they receive a diagnosis. Even after they receive a diagnosis, medication fails for three out of four people. And it’s not just the women we are failing. We are failing their children also. Autoimmune disease costs our society a lot more than cancer does, yet the research dollars allocated to autoimmune diseases account for only a sliver of the research dollars dedicated to cancer. You can’t tell me that has nothing to do with the demographic break-down of autoimmune disorders.
How do you believe we can start to personalize women’s health?
Well, a nice place to start would be to test drugs on women as well as men. The fact that metformin, which is very loosely given to treat insulin disorders, has only been tested in men is outrageous to me. There are so many pockets of healthcare where personalization has completely missed the boat. To be quite frank as a society we have often not thought about health in a full picture way. If you have an autoimmune disease, it gets taken apart. You go to the doctor and have brain fog, stomach pain, joint issues – and the doctor tells you: “That’s three different specialists. What’s your biggest problem right now?” At that point, we fail the patient. Joints are not a separate issue from the brain fog or from stomach pain. It’s all interrelated. When women seek help for fertility issues that’s a pre-autoimmune problem. You are in a position where your body is not working and these are the first signs. As a society we just figure out how to manipulate the body to actually give birth instead of taking a look at the underlying issues. Infertility is inflammatory driven. Autoimmunity is inflammatory driven. Many issues are driven by the same underlying cause but we separate them into six different buckets and say they all have different treatment methodologies.
How do you think we can get a more holistic picture of patients?
By companies like ours going directly to the consumer in need. There are enough women out there that know there is something wrong with the treatment they are being given. I think it is going to be a grassroots movement. I think doctors will be referring in. It has to be an interplay between the disruptive methodologies, the data and the doctors – but it will begin with women themselves. We’ve never had customer service in healthcare be as good as if you were buying a pair of sneakers.
Do you find doctors are responsive to Mymee?
When the data started backing what we do, doctors became very responsive. We’re an adjunct therapy to the care doctors deliver after all. We are a tool for the rheumatologist, the same way the electric toothbrush is a tool for the dentist. Whatever it is doctors need, we help them provide that. I believe doctors understand how a data-driven solution can be helpful, but they’ve had limited experience seeing how effective the type of personalized interventions we suggest can be until they have patients come back with exponentially improved symptoms. We are giving people the blueprint to their own bodies.