Citizen Scientists Successfully Fund Groundbreaking Startup to Sequence their Microbiomes

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San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) January 16, 2013

logo-attempt21uBiome, the first citizen science effort to map the human microbiome, is the world’s largest successful citizen science crowdfunding campaign in history (http://indiegogo.com/ubiome). Raising over $120,000 from over 1,000 participants, they have significantly exceeded their $100,000 goal. The biotech startup from the University of California, San Francisco branch of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) has sparked the era of microbiome-based personalized medicine — engaging with the public to provide easily accessible information about their own bodies using the latest in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology.

uBiome provides participants with a catalog of their own microbes. The service details the microbial composition of the body, explains what is known about each type of microbe, and relates the participant’s microbiome information to the latest scientific research on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle. The uBiome website provides personal analysis tools so that users can anonymously compare their results with those of family, friends, and crowd data. uBiome is HIPAA compliant and will not release personal identifying data or information to anyone.

The information gained from a uBiome survey can help participants answer their real-world questions about their health, such as:

  • Dieting: Is that low-carb diet working for you? Certain microbial profiles in the gut are strongly associated with long-term diets, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella). 
  • Sinusitis: Is your nasal microbiome associated with the profile of chronic sinusitis? 
  • Diabetes: How do your gut microflora correlate with those of diabetes patients? 
  • Alcohol: Should you cut your alcohol intake? You may wish to consider it if your gut profile is similar to that of heavy drinkers. 
  • Bowel conditions: Do you have irritable bowel syndrome, or any other bowel condition? You may want to purchase our specially designed kit and survey for bowel disorders.

The project has garnered over $120,000 in crowdfunding and over 1,000 participants, more than four times the number of participants included in the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project, which was completed in 2012. “The more people that participate, the more statistical power is available to answer important scientific questions. The NIH study was a fantastic start, and we are scaling up so we can use “Big Data” to get the answers to the big questions about health and disease.” said co-founder Zachary Apte, PhD. Participants from over thirty-five countries have pledged their support in exchange for having their microbiomes sequenced, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, India, Singapore, Israel, Uruguay, Bulgaria, South Africa, Estonia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are proud that many of the people who have signed up for our service are from countries that are less-often studied. By using citizen science, we bridge the gap between smaller or developing countries and those with huge research budgets. The gap is both unscientific and unfair, and we want to fix it.” said uBiome co-founder Jessica Richman.

The human body is composed of 10 trillion human cells, but there are ten times as many microbial cells as human cells – the 100 trillion that together form the microbiome. These microbes are not harmful, but rather are co-evolved symbiants, essential collaborators in our physiology. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. The latest research suggests that the correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins.

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