uBiome Supports Oral Disease Prevention with Donations and Study

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uBiome, the pioneering microbial genomics company, is supporting the prevention of oral disease, the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults in the United States, in three ways. The company is making a donation to the Smiles Across America program; giving fifty of its dental microbiome testing kits to the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at UCSF; and mailing out hundreds of kits to citizen scientists who supported its recent oversubscribed crowdfunding campaign aimed at exploring the human oral microbiome.

uBiome provides a unique testing service enabling individuals to explore the abundant diversity of bacteria living in and on the human body, collectively known as the microbiome. In addition to gut bacteria, uBiome also enables people to sample microbes from four other body sites, including the mouth. Oral bacteria plays a big part in tooth decay and gum disease which, while largely preventable, are among todayʼs biggest health issues, particularly in the young, as well as in disadvantaged communities.

Following a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, uBiome will donate a portion of the money the campaign raised to the Smiles Across America campaign, launched in 2004 to provide oral disease prevention services for children who are uninsured and underserved due to issues of poverty. It is also giving fifty of its $89 oral microbiome test kits to UCSFʼs Division of Pediatric Dentistry. Thirdly, during the next week uBiome will mail out hundreds of its test kits to supporters of its crowdfunding campaign which, when received back at uBiomeʼs laboratories, will form the basis of one of the worldʼs biggest ever studies of oral bacteria.

The individual species of bacteria in a personʼs microbiome have only relatively recently become identifiable following a $115 million project by the NIH Human Microbiome Project. uBiomeʼs rDNA sequencing service builds on this work, enabling the company to cut the cost of microbiome sequencing from millions of dollars ten years ago to just $89 today. There are around ten times more bacterial cells in the body than there are human cells. The mouth alone can play host to around 700 different species of bacteria and other single-celled micro-organisms.

There is no question that although oral disease is a major health issue, not enough is known about all the bacteria which can help. Dr. Jeremy Horst, one of the dental experts for uBiomeʼs study, has a clinical practice in the Bay Area and is involved in intensive research at UCSF, focusing on dental caries and genome-wide computational drug discovery techniques. He says: “All of us are frustrated by our inability to predict and prevent disease. We need better tools to help us track the bacteria that cause caries and gum disease, and help educate our patients.”

According to World Health Organization statistics, more than 60% of school children worldwide and almost 100% of adults have dental caries. Severe gum disease, which often results in tooth loss, is found in 15-20% of middle-aged adults. In the United States, approximately 1-in-20 adults age 20 to 64 have no teeth. Oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.

Smiles Across America is a nationwide program fighting tooth decay by coordinating schools, government, care providers, and corporate and community sponsors. The program has provided more than $1.5 million in grant support to communities in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Researchers at the Division of Pediatric Dentistry at UCSF are studying ways to improve the dental health of groups that have historically had worse oral health. Their primary focus is preventing tooth decay in young children, as well as eliminating health disparities among low-income individuals and communities.

Jessica Richman, co-founder and CEO of uBiome, says: “Weʼve experienced big improvements in oral health over the past few decades in the U.S., but unfortunately this progress hasnʼt been across the board. In fact the Surgeon General refers to a “silent epidemic” of oral disease affecting some population groups. We believe uBiome has a duty to do whatever it can to help improve oral health.”

Dr. Zachary Apte, CTO and co-founder of uBiome adds: “The uBiome lab is standing by to carry out genetic sequencing on the hundreds of oral microbiome samples which will be arriving as part of this important study, and our data science team is poised to help people make sense of their results. We expect to learn a lot and to make a big contribution to the broad understanding of how oral microbes affect oral health.”

UCSF scientists and technologists from Stanford and Cambridge launched uBiome in 2012 after its first crowdfunding campaign raised over $350,000 from citizen scientists, roughly triple the initial goal. uBiome is now funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator, and other leading investors. The companyʼs mission is to use big data to understand the human microbiome by giving consumers the power to learn about their bodies, perform experiments, and see how current research studies apply to them.

Orli Kadoch
Ph: +1 415-691-7291

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