/ Podcast / AI-Powered Gut Microbiome Testing, With Leo Grady

AI-Powered Gut Microbiome Testing, With Leo Grady

Can artificial intelligence be used to improve overall health? This week Dr. Sandi discusses how AI is being integrated into healthcare with Jona founder, Leo Grady. After working with and developing artificial intelligence systems for the last 20 years, Grady has put this important tool to work helping people live healthier lives.

AI is currently being used to help people analyze and assess their gut microbiomes. So much of our health is impacted by our microbiome, health coaches know it is an important part of health and wellness. Jona uses AI as a tool to help provide clients with research-backed recommendations to improve their health. AI is becoming a vital tool in healthcare. Learn how health coaches can use AI to help guide their clients along their health and wellness journey.

Episode Highlights

  • Understand how artificial intelligence is being used by healthcare companies.
  • Learn how health coaches can coach clients through AI-generated results and recommendations from tests such as those from Jona.
  • Gain insight into Jona and how clients can use their DTC lab tests.
  • Discover how artificial intelligence provides research-backed recommendations to customers.
  • Listeners can get $135 off the Jona Microbiome test by using code FMCA at checkout. Sign up here.

Meet the Guest

Leo Grady

Founder, Jona


Leo has 20 years of experience leading the development and commercialization of advanced machine learning, AI, computer vision, diagnostic, and digital health technologies that have made a significant impact on healthcare practice. During his tenure as CEO of Paige, Leo led the company to become an industry leader, internationally launched several groundbreaking software products, and became the first-ever company to receive FDA approval for an AI product in pathology.

Jona and CEO in Residence with Breyer Capital.

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Episode Transcript

Dr. Sandi: Welcome to “Health Coach Talk.” My guest today is Leo Grady of Jona Health, and he’s here to tell you all about what they do and why this is something that, as a health coach or if you’re considering becoming a health coach or working with one, why this would be important for you to learn about. So, welcome, Leo.

Leo: Thank you so much, Sandi. It’s great to be here.

Dr. Sandi: Well, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. And you started out… You have a long history, over 20 years, with AI. You’re in tech, and you have experience with a lot of different companies prior to Jona. Can you share that journey and how you came to found Jona? What was the impetus for that?

Leo: Yeah, absolutely. So, I actually did a PhD in AI 20 years ago. I spent my whole career in the healthcare industry. I started at Siemens building AI in radiology. Then, I was in California building AI in cardiology. Then, I was CEO of a company here in New York called Paige.AI and building AI pathology.

And throughout all of these companies, we had multiple FDA approvals. We were the first Medicare payment for an AI product in healthcare. It really launched these products globally, and I saw the impact that we were having.

And at the same time, I was really reading more and more about the microbiome and seeing how central it was to someone’s health. And as you know, somebody myself who is very interested in personal health like you’ve got the guy with the Oura ring. And I have several members of my family who have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac.

I saw the importance of the microbiome and the literature was just exploding, but I thought that it was so complex that not only the microbiome is so complex but the scientific literature is so complex. Every single month, there are more than 2,000 papers published on the microbiome in PubMed.

So, nobody can read all of these. And even if you do read 100 papers on microbiome and bloating, the microbiome and colon cancer, actually putting all that data together, all those studies together to interpret somebody’s microbiome test results is really, really hard because studies are slightly different and so on.

So, this is where I felt AI could really add a lot of value to be able to allow us to understand…you know, take advantage of what’s already known today about the microbiome and start using it and operationalizing it. Even though we’re not at the state of having a clinical diagnostic test or anything like that, let’s just start using all of the great research that’s already been done and systematically applying that to be able to interpret somebody’s microbiome.

Dr. Sandi: Sure. So, what you’re saying is you’ve taken your past knowledge, experience, and you were really ahead of your time to be looking into artificial intelligence so many years ago, taking that and applying it to microbiome testing. Can you describe what this is like? What is the consumer experience? And first of all, is this a direct-to-consumer test? Let’s say I want to find out about my microbiome. I want to find out all the bugs and what’s living in my gut. So, how can I get a test through Jona?

Leo: So, we are offering it through providers and clinicians, health coaches, concierge, medicine, functional medicine, integrated medicine. We’re also selling it direct-to-consumer. So, you can go on our website and order a test. And when you do that, we ship a kit to your house. It’s a stool sample. You send it back to the lab. We do deep shotgun metagenomic sequencing, and we identify all the bacteria, the fungus, the viruses, everything in your gut down to a strain level.

And then we built this large language model, which is a type of AI like ChatGPT. And what that does is it reads the entire literature, and it can summarize for you and say, “Sandi, here are all the diseases that have been linked with your microbiome. Here are all the allergies that have been linked with your microbiome. Here are the symptoms that have been linked with your microbiome,” provide you all that information, link you out to the study so you can see what we’re talking about.

And then if there’s a problem where there’s something you want to fix, then the AI goes through the literature again and figures out what you can do to change your microbiome. It could be diet, it could be lifestyle, it could be supplements. Again, it summarizes all that for you and makes it available, citing all the studies about how this change affects your microbiome and why that would move you in a direction that would potentially lessen those associations with whatever health issue you’re trying to address.

Dr. Sandi: So, one of the issues, when I speak to practitioners, for example, or I saw as consumers who’ve taken these tests that are direct to consumer, looking at their microbiome, they come back with recommendations like, “Oh, you shouldn’t eat cashews,” or, “You should only eat almonds,” or vice versa. And they’re not sure like, “Okay, how did they come up with these recommendations? Is this valid?” And so can you describe what is different at Jona so that you can look at a recommendation with more confidence?

Leo: Yeah, there are really two big things, right? One is that a lot of those companies are really selling you probiotics or supplements. And when I take those tests, they say, “Leo, your guts are awful, but take our probiotic and we’ll fix it.” And so that’s one flavor.

And then to your point when they do say cashews or almonds or whatnot, it’s never clear to me how they arrive at that.

Dr. Sandi: Yeah, that’s the problem. How do you know?

Leo: Exactly. They don’t tell you, and this is why having the AI read the literature and point you to the study that says, “Eating cashews was shown to change your microbiome by increasing these species and decreasing these species. And for you, increasing these species and increasing those species would decrease your association with bloating,” or whatever it is, right, that you’re trying to work with. And so we could actually connect the dots for you.

Dr. Sandi: Okay. So, it’s the AI, it’s the larger database that you are tapping into so that it increases the validity of the results.

Leo: Yeah, and linking you to those studies. We tell you, is it preliminary evidence? Is it established? You know, every study that we look at, we give it a quality score, which depends on the size of the study and the quality of the journal. And by this, we try to help you understand is this something that’s really known and established or is it more preliminary. But totally transparent, so there’s no black box or just, “Trust us.”

Dr. Sandi: Yeah, got you. Is this something that is meant to be done repeatedly? So, let’s say I get my microbiome assessed. I do this test in January, and then there’s recommendations. Maybe I’m following those recommendations and I want to see what’s changed. So, could I then be assessed again, let’s say, six months down the road or so?

Leo: One hundred percent. And that’s really how we’re designing the product is for people who want to be monitoring their health. I think there are really two groups. There are people that are generally healthy. They just want to check and make sure nothing’s off in their microbiome. People that don’t have any particular health issues.

And there are other people who are trying to either get to the root cause of something or trying to fix something or they’re having symptoms and they’re trying to understand where they’re coming from and what they might be able to do about it. And for those people, if they’re actually making changes and working on their microbiome, then I think they would want to reassess to really track and monitor, “Am I getting the results that I am expecting? And should I keep doing this or should I take a turn and try something different now that the microbiome is at a different stage?”

Dr. Sandi: What do you see as the role of health coaches to help their clients or, perhaps they’re working with practitioners, what would that role be in working with an assessment like Jonas?

Leo: I think it’s two things really. One is to help the client understand the results and answer questions and really help think through how to implement dietary changes or lifestyle changes in the context of that particular individual. And then the other is that people are more than just their microbiome, right? We’ve seen that the microbiome underpins so much of their health, but other people are dealing with… There’s more information there in terms of what’s going on in their life mentally and emotionally, or their blood biomarkers, or their hormone biomarkers. And so the microbiome is part of one picture.

And so I think it adds information. I think we can provide really unique information to both interpret your microbiome and help you potentially identify root causes and things that you can do, but it’s one piece of an overall picture. And I think the health coach’s role is to take that whole picture and really help guide the person so they got most of this.

Dr. Sandi: That makes sense. And that’s what we teach, to help have their… They’re the guides to help people to lead happier, healthier lives and look at what areas you need to change.

So, I’ve been talking a lot about this merger of heart-centered coaching plus AI. And I’d love to hear your thoughts as someone who’s been in this field of AI for so long and you’ve seen it evolve. Many people see it as a threat. So, what would you say what is the future for AI and how can we look at it as a positive as opposed to being frightened out of our minds about the robots are taking over?

Leo: Yeah, yeah. I hear a lot of that. AI is a tool, right? And if you look at something like Jona, right? In theory, somebody could read 2,000 papers a month. Practically, that’s impossible, right? And so if you want to be able to take advantage of all that information, no matter how qualified you are as a health coach or not, how experienced you are, it’s not possible to keep up with literature like that.

So, when you look at Jona and the kind of AI that we built, reading that literature for you, providing that summary, linking you out to the studies so you can still go read the relevant studies for that individual client, it’s a real service that you couldn’t do otherwise.

And when I look at a lot of what I’ve built in the past in healthcare, it’s really providing more information to the doctor or the clinician that they didn’t really have access to otherwise. And that allows them to be better informed in both understanding what’s going wrong with the patient and selecting the best way to treat that patient.

In many cases, people conjure up all these doomsday scenarios with AI, but when you actually look around, AI is a tool that helps us sift through a lot of information very quickly and find what we’re looking for and really help us make better, more informed decisions.

Dr. Sandi: Well, that makes a lot of sense. So, if a health coach wants to have, can they get an account with Jona? Can you describe that process?

Leo: Yeah, there’s a provider page on our website. And if you fill in the contact form, we can set you up with your own link that you can send your clients to, and then they can order with your specific code so that you will get the information. And we’ll be able to link that client with you as a health coach. And if anyone ever has any trouble, they can always reach out directly either through the website or contact me or anyone else at the company to help answer any questions.

Dr. Sandi: So, there could be two ways that coaches can work with you and what you just described is one. And I think that would be if you already have a license for another field or you are confident, if you have the training and background, and if you would prefer to have your clients go to the direct-to-consumer, that would be another way so that the results come directly to your client, and then they can share that with you.

And what I love about this platform and what you built is that the recommendations, the analysis is there so that you, as a health coach, are not interpreting medical information. You are actually helping people understand what is there in black and white on their results report from you guys.

And so that’s why what appealed to me about what you’re doing, and that is because it is not the coach acting as the practitioner. Again, unless you have that training and background, you already have a prior license to do that. So, yeah.

Leo: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And we link to all the studies. So, everything that we say is backed up by different studies, and the client can read them. The coach can read them, ultimately really just surfacing that information to help interpret the person’s microbiome.

Dr. Sandi: Yeah. What are your future plans? What are your dreams for the future of the company? Where would you like to go?

Leo: As we work with more and more coaches, as we work with more and more clients, we’re going to start being able to see more microbiomes and see changes that people are making, see how their microbiome is changing over time.

And that’s really going to allow us to go beyond the literature and start to advance microbiome science to the point where we can actually not just link to existing studies but create our own studies and use all of this data in order to be able to build true clinical-grade diagnostics and new therapeutics that can really help better diagnose and treat people.

Dr. Sandi: Sounds good. Well, I wish you all the best of luck with that mission. And how can people find you or find Jona?

Leo: We have a website at www.jona.health. We’re on Instagram, and Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please feel free to reach out, and we’d love to hear from you.

Dr. Sandi: Thanks for being with us today, and this is just one more way that health coaches can really guide people to take charge of their health, by getting this information so that they know what is going on in their microbiome. So, again, thanks for being with us today.

Leo: Thanks so much, Sandi. This was fun.