Toolbox Genomics Overview: Comprehensive Panels
Toolbox Genomics functions as a branch of the same company that offers consumer DNA tests through MyToolbox Genomics. Although purchasing tests from MyToolbox Genomics is simple, the process is more complicated for Toolbox Genomics. The distinction lies in that Toolbox Genomics only sells its tests to medical professionals. Therefore, to get one of their tests, coordination with your doctor or healthcare provider is necessary.
You won’t be able to buy any of the tests directly from the website, but you can order any of six wellness-focused panels by going through this link.
Healthcare professionals (including everyone from your nurse practitioner to your personal trainer or nutritionist) are able to order any number of Toolbox Genomics’ 15 panels for their clients. All of these panels focus on relevant aspects of your diet and nutrition that might be affecting different areas of your health (e.g., respiratory, cardiovascular, or cognitive).
If you have specific health concerns and are wondering whether your diet could be playing a role, one of these panels could help you get some answers.
Hint: Toolbox Genomics offers detailed tests and easy-to-understand results. The recommendations are a bit basic but the phone consult is super-helpful.
I’ll walk through what I’ve learned about Toolbox Genomics and what I discovered in my own personal Nutrition Optimization report to give you a good idea of whether this is something you’d like to look into or bring up at your next doctor’s appointment or training session.
It’s important to note that these tests are currently only available in the US. If you’re more focused on diet and fitness, then Living DNA is my top choice.
This Will Take Literally a Minute of Your Life
The standout feature here is the remarkably simple sample submission process. I was pleasantly amazed by how fast and uncomplicated it was, to the point where I wondered if I had missed a step.
To submit your sample, all you need to do is gently swab the inside of your cheek around 15-20 times. Then, you simply break off the swab in the vial containing the stabilizing liquid. Finally, you package everything up and place it in the pre-paid return box. The entire process took me approximately one minute. After about three days, I received an email notification that my results were in the processing phase.
5 Standout Features of Toolbox Genomics
1. Well-Bundled Packages to Address Specific Questions or Concerns
As I mentioned earlier, there are 15 different panels that cover different health areas you might be interested in, six of which you can order directly. For each panel, you’ll learn how your genetic predisposition to diet and nutrition could play a role, and what lifestyle changes you may want to consider.
- Respiratory Resilience*: Discover if you’re genetically predisposed to conditions or nutrient deficiencies that could lower your respiratory resilience
- Nutrition Optimization*: Learn about any genetic nutrient deficiencies, how you metabolize different substances and if you have any food intolerances – this is the test I took
- Cardiometabolic Panel: Determine if genetic influences may be contributing to an existing cardiometabolic disorder (e.g., diabetes, hypertension, etc.)
- Cognitive Panel: Learn about your predisposition to cognitive impairment (e.g., anxiety, dementia, etc.) and what actions you can take
- Detox Panel*: Discover if you’re predisposed to factors that make it difficult to lose weight, eliminate toxins, etc.
- Endurance Performance*: Designed specifically for athletes who are interested in learning about the best training exercises
- Energy/Fatigue Panel: Better understand the genetic influences that may be affecting your energy levels and how your body responds to stress
- GI Panel: Assess your genetic predisposition to gastrointestinal health issues (e.g., Crohn’s Disease, IBS, etc.) and how you can alter your diet
- Health Enrichment*: Learn about optimal weight management, nutrition, and exercise strategies, all based on your personal genetics
- Hormone Panel: Better understand how you produce, circulate, and metabolize hormones to create a healthier lifestyle
- Immune Panel: Discover your genetic predispositions to inflammation and oxidative stress, which are key for immune health
- Weight Management*: Learn how you are genetically likely to process different macronutrients (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrates)
- Gut/Brain Panel: Understand your genetic predisposition to various gut conditions, which can impact brain health
- Musculoskeletal Panel: Discover any genetic predispositions to musculoskeletal pain, disc degeneration, and more
- Concussion Panel: Uncover your genetic predisposition to things like inflammation, oxidative stress, mild cognitive decline, and more
* You can order these six “wellness-focused” tests directly, you’ll have to talk to a healthcare professional about any of the others.
2. Transparency Regarding Research-Based Recommendations
Personally, I don’t like to just “take someone’s word” for something – especially in situations that involve my health. I really appreciate the fact that Toolbox Genomics dedicates an entire section of its website to sharing the research and studies that inform the recommendations that you’ll receive in your personal health report.
There are a couple of dozen sources that you can click through to read. They’re all pretty scientific, and (more than) a little over my head – but that’s probably a good thing! I would note, however, that it didn’t necessarily feel like all of the different reports that Toolbox Genomics offers were covered in this list of research and studies, so it might need some updating.
3. Sample Reports Help You Understand What to Expect
I’ve found that a lot of times, at-home DNA testing companies are really vague about what sort of results you can expect to receive. You might read on the website that you’ll get “reports” about things like your vitamin levels or “recommendations” for lifestyle changes. Okay…but what does that really mean?
There’s a sample report for literally every single panel you can order. And a full sample report, not just one or two cherry-picked sections. This helps manage expectations as you’ll know exactly what sort of things will be covered in your report, plus the level of detail. You’ll also know what won’t be covered.
4. Distinct Recommendation Categories
Toolbox Genomics breaks down its recommendations into four distinct categories: supplements, diet, lifestyle, and further testing. In my opinion, this takes information that could quickly become overwhelming and makes it much more actionable. When I was reading through my results, instead of thinking, “oh no, I am at risk for X,” I thought “okay, here are four different angles that I can use to address this issue.”
5. One-on-One Consultations Available
This last feature wasn’t immediately obvious to me: you can schedule a free 30-minute phone call to discuss your report – or any other questions you may have – with one of Toolbox Genomics’ health professionals.
In my case, I spoke with Michelle, a Naturopathic Doctor. I’ll go into this in more detail in the Support section, but will just say here that I really, really appreciated this. It’s super frustrating when you’ve already paid a bunch of money for a report that still leaves you with questions. Toolbox Genomics made sure that all of mine were answered, which is something that most competitors (like Vitagene or AncestryDNA) don’t offer.
Useful Information with Clear Recommendations
It’s always awesome when your package – or in this case PDF report – comes earlier than expected. I was told that it would take between four and six weeks to get my results. So when I got another email after just one week, I figured it would just be an update on the progress. Nope! It was my 28-page Nutrition Optimization Health Action Plan.
Toolbox Genomics refers to itself as a “data interpretation service,” which means that your genetic sample is processed by a partner CLIA/CAPP certified lab. This information is then compared to a bunch of genetic markers that have been identified as significant to different areas of your health.
Let’s take a look at my Health Action Plan from the Nutrition Optimization report.
The report starts out with a quick overview of genetics and how your DNA influences the different traits that show up in your life. Next, it goes into how to read the report. It’s pretty straightforward. Essentially, there are three components that are covered for each trait:
1) the “impact” of the trait on your body’s function
2) the different genes that contribute to the traits’ impact
3) recommendations based on your unique score.
All in all, 20 different traits are covered. These include mostly vitamins and nutrients, as well as things like alcohol and caffeine metabolism.
Next, was a high-level overview of my results. I had a “high impact score” for three different traits: calcium, gluten sensitivity, and vitamin D3 (see report below). This means that I’m genetically predisposed to have lower calcium and vitamin D3 levels; I’m also at a higher risk of being sensitive to gluten. You’ll receive recommendations for any of your traits that receive a high or medium impact score.
I was not surprised by my results. I recently learned from a 23andMe report that I could be sensitive to gluten. In hindsight, this explains a lot of…discomfort that I’ve experienced over the years after eating breads and fried foods. Oh well, at least I can still eat cheese.
I only had three traits that were marked “high impact” – not too shabby!
The next four pages included my cumulative recommendations for all of the tested traits. As I mentioned earlier, these are broken down into:
- Supplement Recommendations
- Diet Recommendations
- Lifestyle Recommendations
- Further Testing Recommendations
I had ten recommendations each for supplements (e.g., folate, vitamin B12), diet (e.g., avoid oats, eat calcium-rich food), and further testing (ferritin/iron, folate levels). I only had one lifestyle recommendation, which was to make sure I get enough sunlight exposure.
Here’s a look at what some of my diet recommendations looked like:
I thought most of these were super obvious. If I’m likely to have low calcium levels, I should try to eat calcium-rich foods…okay, duh.
That’s the bulk of the report.
Then there’s an appendix that details each of the tested traits, listing your impact score, the associated genetic markers, and all of the related recommendations. Basically, it’s the same information presented in a different way.
Here’s a look at my calcium report:
Every trait is broken down on its own page, so you can see the details and recommendations for each.
I liked how the recommendations are kept clear and distinct. Instead of feeling overwhelming, it feels empowering. I know what I should be doing in the kitchen, I know what I should be getting in the pharmacy, and I know what appointments I should be scheduling. Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily get all four types of recommendations for each trait – I didn’t get a lifestyle recommendation regarding my calcium levels, for example.
All in all, I found the report super easy to digest (unlike gluten, apparently). The layout was really clear, so I could quickly scroll to specific pages I was interested in. But it was also really basic.
I also have some constructive criticism. I think there was a lot of missed opportunity to provide helpful information. For example, I’m genetically predisposed to have lower calcium levels. That being the case, it’s obvious that I should eat calcium-rich foods – instead, give me suggestions for what type of foods I could be incorporating into my diet. Also, I didn’t know that a “DEXA Scan” measures your bone density; it’d be nice to include brief descriptions for those of us who haven’t memorized a bunch of medical acronyms.
I mentioned earlier that I was able to jump on the phone with someone and discuss my results. I think that if this is an option it should be mentioned prominently on the report. It’d be nice to know right away that you can contact someone if you have questions or concerns.
Good Luck Finding Any Pricing Info on the Website
If you’re clicking around on the Toolbox Genomics website for a sense of pricing, you’re going to be looking for a loooong time. No prices are listed. On one hand, this sort of makes sense, because unless you go through a partner like DNA Weekly to order the test directly, you’ll need to speak to a healthcare professional.
Toolbox Genomics accepts most major credit and debit cards (orders and payments are processed by Square). Unfortunately, the tests currently aren’t covered by insurance.
There are no upgrades or “extras” to speak of. I was also told that you get a substantial discount (around 50%) for any subsequent tests that you order; this is because your DNA doesn’t have to be re-sequenced.
Since tests are only available if you’re in the US, all prices are paid in USD.
The Phone Call Isn’t Advertised, but It’s the Most Helpful
Toolbox Genomics has a couple of self-help options. There’s an FAQ page, which does a pretty good job of covering questions you’re likely to have about 1) How It Works, 2) The Science, and 3) Security and Privacy.
There’s also a blog that looks to be updated fairly regularly. The topics covered are pretty diverse, but there’s no way to search for keywords, which makes it an ineffective resource, in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying to spend my afternoon scrolling through blog posts, trying to find one that sounds like it could be relevant.
If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for (or you’re like me and are too lazy to dig around looking), you are given a few different options for getting in touch with Toolbox Genomics:
- Call (hours not listed)
- Send an email
- Submit a message request on the website
I tried calling a few days ago, left a voicemail, and still haven’t heard back. (Will update this review if/when I do.) So that first option was a bust.
Next, I sent an email asking whether the tests were available outside of the US. In less than 24 hours I received a brief and helpful response, essentially saying “not yet.”
Then, I submitted a message request on the website inquiring about some of my results. I got a sort of weird email back saying that I should set up a meeting with a team member to get all of my questions answered. My first thought was, “why is this the first time I’m hearing about this option?”
There was a link to schedule my meeting, and it really looked like it was just for healthcare professionals who would be ordering a test for one of their clients/patients. When I pointed this out, I just got another email back reiterating that “[Toolbox Genomics] staff is happy to answer your questions.”
The call with Michelle was super helpful. She was clearly knowledgeable and explained things in a way that was easy to understand (without making me feel dumb – which I always appreciate). In my opinion, this added quite a bit of value to the report and experience as a whole. I just wish it had been better advertised from the beginning.
Useful Information with Room for Growth
I can see how this company can provide a lot of value to someone like a dietician, nutritionist, or personal trainer who wants to offer additional services to their clients. I can also see how it’d be annoying if you think that’s your only option for ordering one of these tests. If you don’t want to through a healthcare professional, you can click here to order six different “wellness-focused” panels directly.
As a whole, there are a bunch of panels that can offer useful and actionable information – especially if you have a health concern that your diet could be contributing to. However, I do think that the reports could provide more detail to make the recommendations more easily understood and actionable.
How accurate is Toolbox Genomics?
According to its website, Toolbox Genomics tests are highly accurate, with a 98% accuracy rating. The tests are processed in a CLIA/CAPP certified laboratory, which are held to the very highest processing and performance standards, to ensure result accuracy and integrity.
How long does it take to get results from Toolbox Genomics?
Toolbox Genomics states that you’ll receive your test results in four to six weeks. But I received my results super-fast, in just one week.
How much does Toolbox Genomics cost?
The “health-focused” panels from Toolbox Genomics can only be ordered by health and fitness professionals, so the pricing for these panels are not clearly listed. If you go through this link, you can choose from six “wellness-focused” panels– these are all priced the same at just under $250. If you order more than one, you’ll get a discount (since your DNA only needs to be sequenced once).
Who should take a Toolbox Genomics DNA test?
Anyone who is interested in their genetic risk factors for an array of diseases can take a Toolbox Genomics test, as can those interested in gaining insight into how best to feed and exercise their bodies to achieve peak health and wellness. There’s such a broad range of health, fitness, and wellness tests available, that anyone can find a relevant test – from food sensitivities and gut health (and how it impacts your brain) to fitness and musculoskeletal health tests.
Which Toolbox Genomics test should I take?
It really depends on what you want to improve or what insights you want to gain. If you’re unsure which is the right test for you, speak to your healthcare provider and get their opinion. You can also schedule a helpful one-on-one meeting to speak to a representative from Toolbox Genomics directly.