In conversation with Dr Jack Kreindler: Bridging physiology, medicine, and technology to increase health, performance, and longevity

Home / Company news / In conversation with Dr Jack Kreindler: Bridging physiology, medicine, and technology to increase health, performance, and longevity

By Severine Balick

I was recently introduced to Dr Jack Kreindler, a pioneering physician and innovator renowned for his work at the cutting edge of preventive medicine and human performance. As the founder of the Centre for Health and Human Performance in London, his groundbreaking approaches have not only transformed the lives of elite athletes and explorers but also advanced the broader field of healthcare and personalised medicine. He is now focusing on democratizing his approach to drive better health and performance beyond elite sports to business teams.

Jack, you’re a physician, researcher, health tech entrepreneur, extreme explorer, and now Founder and CEO of Well-Founded. Can you introduce yourself briefly?

Sure. I’ve been a physician for 27 years, but my fascination with technology dates back to when I was 13. I’ve always been intrigued by computers and human-computer interfaces. My medical career began in emergency medicine and then expanded into high altitude and extreme environments medicine. I’m fascinated by what helps people survive and thrive in extreme conditions, whether they’re severely ill, fighting cancers, or in environments like polar regions, or working extremely hard in high-stress environments like startups. Understanding human physiology, resilience, and performance science, I believe, is what makes medicine more than just treating illnesses, it’s about fundamentally improving how our bodies and brains function.

How did technology influence your career from the beginning, and shaped the rest of your career since?

The emergence of the internet and search  engines was instrumental in my career.  While at medical school, I was moonlighting for the late Douglas Adams, working with the team building the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy online edition- arguably the predecessor to wikis. I was in the same room as Douglas when I did my first Google search. In that moment, I realized that opinion, data, evidence, and truth in medicine would never be the same. The accessibility of information and the ability for anyone to contribute to it would change rapidly. This realization sparked the idea for my first venture-backed health company in 1999, which merged with Alain Prost’s performance lab IBSV to form Vielife, now part of the health insurance giant CIGNA.

When did you become interested in physiology and human performance?

My interest in physiology and human performance started 30 years ago at UCL,  where I was taught by luminaries in the field of performance and extreme medicine, like Professor Hugh Montgomery. My love for mountains, sports, mountaineering, and ski expeditions, combined with my passion for polar explorers, fuelled my interest. Professor. Montgomery, an intensive care specialist and leading academic, was my teacher and mentor. He found the first genes for human fitness and promoted enhancing human physiology for better medical outcomes.

What has led to a growing number of people to be suddenly interested in or rediscover longevity science and human performance, and how did COVID-19 impact this trend?

The world’s current fascination with optimizing health, elite sports, and human performance isn’t new – the science has been around for decades. We also now see the millennia-long human obsession with eternal youth resurfacing as the biohacking and longevity movements. Two significant events triggered these trends. First, the advent of the Internet allowed anyone to publish anything, leading to social media and the release of countless e-books, blogs, and podcasts on transforming well-being, health, performance, and longevity. This enabled for widespread dissemination and discussion around these topics, for better and worse. Now, there’s significant commercial incentive and investment behind this, and consumers are more engaged with these ideas through technology, conferences, and accessible content popularized by figures like Peter Attia, Tim Ferris, Mark Hyman, and Tim Spector.

It’s intriguing how many of those who’ve enjoyed meteoric rises to fame have also faced reputational challenges, which only fuelled their publicity. Aging has now, for many, surpassed even cancer as the “emperor of all maladies”. Paradoxically, amidst the positive messaging and extraordinary ageing science opening up society-changing discoveries, there is also hype and hubris. Perhaps the emperor’s new clinicians are prone to wearing the emperor’s new clothes!

The second factor was COVID-19. Anecdotally, many influential investors and entrepreneurs I know shifted from feeling invincible to suddenly realizing the non-zero probability of a shorter life unless they started seriously looking after themselves. Mortality and psychological vulnerability became a reality for many due to the pandemic. So, these two factors combined—the possibility of a longer, healthier life and the probability of not achieving it without action—are, to me, the driving forces behind this sea change, and beyond the “ tech or wealthy bubble”.

How has technology, and the widespread use of smartwatches and connected devices, impacted healthcare accessibility, data collection, and overall health improvement?

The impact of technology has been massive. There have been revolutions in genomic sequencing, multi-omic computation, gene therapies, and synthetic biology. Equally important has been the development of consumer access to testing and wearable devices, along with people’s willingness to contribute to data collection. This has begun to revolutionize healthcare by enabling large-scale, longitudinal data collection, previously impossible. Companies like, 23andMe, Humanity, and many others facilitate citizen science. In parallel, advancements by DeepMind’s Isomorphic Labs, Ochre, Bit Bio, Orionis, and Lab Genius accelerate biological discoveries and breakthroughs. The ability to simulate biology and test interventions more accurately will significantly change drug development and personalized medicine.

What insights are you using today to help your patients improve their health from a holistic point of view?

Although VO2 max testing and other values from laboratory cardio-pulmonary exercise testing aren’t new, consumer devices now offer continual estimates of these metrics without visiting a lab. These consumer devices allow for large-scale data collection and citizen science, helping scientists see patterns like never before and helping people and patients engage and take charge of their health using data. Technology enables a self-directed approach to health, allowing for greater control over disease outcomes and mental well-being, all catalysed by technology. We will inevitably see more responsibility being put in the hands of patients to personalize medicine for themselves and learn preventive health interventions that work for them, and others like them.

What fascinates you most in the field of longevity science and performance today?

Our aim, against the current grain, is not longevity. Our aim for nearly two decades now has been to extend people’s health span and to compress morbidity, whether our patients have rather lofty ambitions to live to 150 years or to provide the best possible quality of life in their last 150 days. Ensuring people remain cognitively and physically active and independent into their 80s and 90s is wholly possible today. Fitness, particularly well-conditioned muscle mass, is crucial for longevity. At a cellular level, metabolic fitness and mitochondrial health are vital. We have been keeping a close eye on molecules like rapamycin for the rejuvenation of the immune system in older people and understanding the myriad lifestyle and micro nutritional factors that impact our global health. While promising research is ongoing, the primary focus and forever the foundation of health should still be on scientifically optimized interventions in exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress resilience, and, crucially, building a performance mindset, family bonds, and deep social connections.

How do you balance experimental treatments like Rapamycin or Metformin with proven lifestyle interventions?

It’s essential to recognize that while some of these experimental treatments hold promise, and rapamycin is a good example, they must be approached with caution and data. There is overwhelming bias among believers in these experimental treatments. Many people are paying extraordinary sums of money to self-proclaimed longevity experts who believe wholeheartedly they are doing good and no harm. We tend to see many of the issues when things go wrong. As advisors rather than prescribers, we are perhaps more suspicious and sceptical. Experiments in those with much to gain from their own bodies and low-risk, well-known interventions are partly due to FOMO and are always a foray into the unknown. Such experiments must, like a lunar mission, be planned and managed immaculately by an expert, fully accountable team. Experiments should be reserved for cases with a clear, personalized medical need and only after thorough research and risk assessment. If you could bottle what can be achieved by the core basics done right, we’d all be Nobel Laureate multi-billionaires. Time will tell whether we can have our cake and just eat a pill to live improbably well into our hundreds without exercising, for instance. For now, the jury is out. In fact, the 50-year trial has only just started.

How do meaningful work, stress management, community and deep connections play into longevity?

Managing stress through building robust social connections, meaningful work, and non-dual practices like meditation, music, and immersion in Nature is crucial. These activities stimulate different neurochemical pathways, seemingly inexorably linked to healthy longevity. It’s not just about what you do but also who you do it with, reflecting findings from studies on Blue Zones and the importance of social and community bonds in living longer, healthier lives. I often use the importance of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll analogy: Not actual sex, but building close human connections; not dopaminergic drugs, but Ikigai—the stress and success of meaningful work; and not necessarily the rock and roll genre, but music, dance, meditation, and just losing oneself. These activities, respectively, stimulate the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin pathways, perhaps reminding our physiology that it’s good to stay around in the tribe for a lot longer.

Can you share more about your new company WellFounded and your approach to democratizing health and performance beyond just athletes, celebrities or the tech bubble?

WellFounded started at CHHP, our lab in London, for elite performers but has grown into a global operation now serving VCs and their portfolio companies in 15 countries. Our first product is a six-month founders’ health, well-being, and elite performance program focusing on a gold standard MDT (Multidisciplinary Team) approach. An MDT involves a group of health specialists working together to make decisions regarding the treatment of individual patients. Our aim is to help founders and leadership teams increase what they’re capable of doing with less stress, reduce burnout, and enhance their performance using science from extreme environments and elite sports. We’re also exploring more automated and self-directed approaches for whole companies, making our services more scalable and accessible. However, you can’t just replace an MDT with AI or a LLM. The opportunity to scale the experts delivering health and performance for the whole innovation economy in a Vielife-like type of service but with a quarter of a century more advanced technology is intriguing, to say the least.

Going back to the South Pole and the other expeditions you did, can you summarise some of the findings from your research?

The Antarctic expedition, INSPIRE 22, focused on understanding the physiological and psychological differences between male and female participants in extreme, hyper-endurance conditions. We learned the importance of team dynamics and morale in stressful environments. The expedition reinforced the idea that both physical fitness and strong social bonds are critical for achieving seemingly impossible goals. We love being invited to give talks in the most sought-after resorts and conference venues, but we excel at expanding knowledge through research expeditions to more austere environments. INSPIRE was, without doubt, the most memorable moment of my career as a physician and physiologist.

How can these adventures, explorations and extreme medicine be applied in other settings like the startup ecosystem?

Startups are more like long, dangerous expeditions than short sprints on a smooth-running track. Building diverse teams will lead to better performance and resilience of the leadership team, the company, the business, and whole investment portfolios. Just as in elite sports, the military, and expeditions, startups benefit from strong, diverse team dynamics, proper training, and support systems on the foundations of people taking care of their own mental and physical health essentials and their team’s. It’s about providing founders and teams with the tools and knowledge to give simple superpowers to their health, resilience, and performance. We do this for every other critical role in extreme environments. Why not for startups?

What did your research in extreme medicine reveal about the role of gender in performance and team dynamics, and can these insights help us navigate diversity more efficiently in business today?

Our research has indicated from early analysis of the data that having more women in a team can be beneficial for success, endurance, and overall team performance. While male physiological characteristics might be advantageous for short bursts of strength, female physiology and psychology offer advantages for long, sustained efforts. This insight is applicable not just in expeditions but also in startups and other high-stress environments. There’s a lot more work to do here, but interestingly, we already know that female physiology, notwithstanding the (reversible) effects of menopause, lends itself to a longer lifespan. Perhaps it also contributes to the great health and longevity of companies and businesses.

Jack, do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share on the intersection of health, performance, and technology?

Sure. The convergence of health, health-span, human performance, exponentially advanced technology and biotechnology is more exciting to me than ever before. But our priorities remain as they were when I qualified. While technology offers new tools and methods for managing our health, the fundamentals of being a caring profession that fights for care equity and accessibility with physical activity, nutrition, sleep, social connections, and good air, water, and food, lie at the core of prevention, longer health spans, and less burden of disease. By combining these core elements with advanced research, tech, ageing and performance science, and ways to scale the expensive experts, we can significantly improve health span and overall quality of life for everybody.

Jack, this has been a fascinating conversation, and the beginning of a new friendship. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to starting my WellFounded program with you and your team to unlock the secrets in my health and fitness.

Thank you so much for inviting me Severine, it’s been an absolute pleasure.