Apparently there are 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut. And just like a fingerprint, the composition of our “microbiome” is unique to each of us. It also potentially holds the key to a healthier lifestyle as it impacts on our weight, energy levels and overall well-being.
That’s the premise of WellBiome, an Estonian medtech startup that falls between two “stools” — 23andme and the general quantified health trend — with a service that sequences and analyses the DNA of the gut’s bacteria to provide personalised diet recommendations.
Specifically, the problem WellBiome is trying to solve is that general nutrition advice often tends to be a one-size-fits-all approach even though, according to the DNA of our gut’s bacteria, each of us is different.
“Since every human being is completely unique but the nutrition advice available today is very general or meant for the “average” person, the only method to change your nutrition is trial and error by finding what works for you,” explains WellBiome co-founder Henri Raska. “Our value proposition here is a very personalised scientific approach.”
That “scientific approach” involves you taking a stool sample, using the supplied WellBiome kit (cost: €129), and sending it off to the startup to analyse.
Then the DNA of gut bacteria is sequenced in the lab, something that used to be prohibitively expensive, and this is used to determine your microbiome composition.
Finally, WellBiome applies its proprietary algorithm based on data from around a hundred recently published scientific studies and clinical trials, and generates your personalised report and dietary advice.
As an example, WellBiome may recommend you consume more beans, peas and whole grains to increase the presence of Bifidobacterium and make digestion more efficient.
More generally, it’s important to consume enough nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in your gut to manage the amount of energy that you get from food and “to prevent excessive population growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi,” says the company.
“The problems we are solving is well-being, weight, energy levels and life expectancy,” says Raska.
He and his co-founder Liis Loorits have a background in molecular microbiology research to characterise environments like biogas, milk, bread and cheese. After joining a startup summer programme at the local Startup Garage, they’ve spent the last two years applying the same methods to researching the human intestines.
“We are solving these problems from a unique angle: sequencing the DNA of bacteria in one’s gut and making super-personalised dietary recommendations based on that,” he adds.
Competition-wise, I’ve not come across a startup doing quite the same thing as WellBiome, although uBiome is attempting to crowd-source (and crowd fund) scientific data related to the microbiome and also offers users a kit to get information back on their gut bacteria’s DNA.
Hat-tip to my TC colleague, Natasha Lomas, for the opening pun