uBiome director of research: 'The best way to answer questions about really complex ecosystems is to collect as much data as possible'

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags microbiome

The best way to answer questions about complex ecosystems is to collect as much data as possible—and that’s what uBiome wants to do to improve the understanding of the human microbiome.

We caught up with Sara Bird, PhD, director of research and development at the Bay Area-based microbiome company uBiome​, who presented some of the data her company has collected during the Probiota Americas 2018 conference in Miami earlier this month.

The company boasts the largest human microbiome dataset in the world, which it started collecting after its launch in 2014, Dr. Bird said. Its dataset has allowed it to collaborate with many research institutions around the world.

“We take the data we get from sequencing these gut samples…to do clinical outcome studies,”​ to better understand the relationships between a doctor’s diagnosis, someone’s microbiome data, and uBiome’s sequenced data, she said, in order to postulate “how these outcomes are helping patients who have chronic conditions.”

Currently, uBiome has two kits to collect the microbe population samples of two different regions in the human body: SmartGut for the gut microbiome, which the company claims can help users and doctors get "valuable insights to better understand what's going on inside your gut,"​ and SmartJane for the vaginal microbiome, which can measure 23 different vaginal flora as well as status of HPV and several STIs.

Working with research institutions

Dr. Bird said that uBiome started an academic grant program a couple of years ago through the White House Microbiome Initiative​ under the Obama administration.

“Researchers can apply for a grant program, and we can set up a study with them. So we give them a kit grant—they can send samples back to our lab, we’ll process those samples for them and send them back the data,” ​she explained.

“Researchers from all around the world have sent us really interesting samples from different cohorts, which has allowed us to collect more data on the microbiome, and also further their own research,” ​she added.

“I think we currently have around 200 research collaborations around the world.”

But how about industry collaborations? Dr. Bird said: "Formulators of prebiotics and probiotics could have a really useful partnership with us. We provide a really comprehensive sequencing service, and we are ripe to be able to do all kinds of collaborations with industry leaders."

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