uBiome Founder and CEO Jessica Richman will speak at the annual TEDMED conference in Washington DC on about crowdsourcing the human microbiome.
San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC (PRWEB) April 18, 2013
uBiome Founder and CEO Jessica Richman will speak at the annual TEDMED conference in Washington DC on uBiome, a biotech startup that aims to understand the health impact of the trillions of microbes living on and in our bodies. At the same time, San Francisco-based biotech startup uBiome will launch its sales website at http://www.ubiome.com.
The uBiome crowdfunding campaign is the largest successful citizen science initiative, raising over $350,000 and involving over 2,500 participants from over 40 countries, who pledged their support in exchange for having their microbiomes sequenced, including the Australia, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, India, Singapore, Israel, Uruguay, Bulgaria, South Africa, Estonia and the United Arab Emirates.
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 tools so that users can anonymously compare their results with those of family, friends, and the crowd.
“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 and Chief Science Officer Zachary Apte, PhD.
There are 10 times as many microbial cells as human cells in our bodies. These microbes are co-evolved symbionts, essential collaborators in human life. 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.
Much research suggests that microbial activity influences mammalian mood and behavior. Studies have linked microbiome states to conditions including obesity, diabetes, autism, depression, anxiety, eczema, chronic sinusitis, and numerous gut disorders. Infant health appears to benefit from a proper seeding of microbes at birth, with health consequences continuing into adolescence. uBiome allows the public to partner with researchers to begin to understand how their microbes are affecting their health.
A decade after the human genome was sequenced, 2012 marked a major milestone: the completion of the NIH Human Microbiome Project. This project sequenced the genomes of the thousands of species of microbes living in synergy with about 250 healthy volunteers, defining a baseline for what "healthy" means. Researchers are now asking how the "healthy" state itself arises, for instance, how lifestyle, diet, and exercise influence the microbiome, as well as how conditions like Crohn’s and diabetes come about. Sequencing a larger number and greater diversity of individuals may offer answers.
"We believe the biological information era is going to follow the same trend that the internet did. When citizens became empowered to explore the internet via search engines like Google, usage skyrocketed. With uBiome, people can have cutting edge access to the latest in biomedical research. This is going to change things in a big way," said uBiome CEO Jessica Richman.
Scientific research in the 21st century has seen great strides in collaborative practices, with “citizen science” allowing professional scientists and amateurs to collaborate on large-scale research questions. uBiome takes citizen science a step further by providing users access to cutting edge research tools to directly address the latest questions in biomedical research of the human microbiome. The more people who join the uBiome community, the more statistical power the project will have to investigate connections between the microbiome and human health.
In contrast to the human genome, the microbiome can be modified and measured over time. uBiome ultimately aims to empower participants to manage their microbiomes to improve their health. By joining uBiome, citizen scientists can explore their own microbiome and be partners in the process of scientific discovery.