Have you ever been curious about the bacterial flora and fauna in your gut?
Or how about your teeth?
uBiome, a YC-backed bio startup that went on to raise funding from Andreessen Horowitz, is launching a second campaign looking at the dental biome.
A biome is the entire ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that live in and on our bodies. Even though the human body is made up of 10 trillion human cells, there are 10 times as many microbial cells. All 100 trillion of them form our microbiome.
They’re not generally harmful, but they can affect our weight, our health, our digestion and other diseases in ways that are hard to predict.
uBiome started out collecting samples in a crowdfunding campaign to sequence the human microbiome two years ago. They ended up raising $350,000 and attracting 2,500 participants. In this study, uBiome will be partnering with Jeremy Horst, a dentist and researcher at UCSF who holds a Ph.D. in bioinformatics.
They’ll collect a swab or sample through a $79 kit sold in the Indiegogo campaign. Then they’ll process and sequence it to understand the microbial composition of the sample. The company will send a report back that shares what’s currently known about each microbe discovered and how it might relate to the latest research.
Ultimately, the longer-term vision involves uBiome’s broader community in becoming citizen scientists and researchers.
Jessica Richman, uBiome’s co-founder, said that many of the company’s customers have run multiple tests on themselves to see if taking probiotic supplements have affected the make-up of their biomes in any way.
“You can take these insights from large data sets and turn them into therapeutic and diagnostic tools over the long-run,” she said. (That is, with consent, of course.)
An analogy you could make is that uBiome is like the 23andMe for your personal microbiome. It’s a consumer product that could lay the foundation for much bigger collaborative research efforts around how the microbiome differs from person to person and what’s healthy and what’s not.