Company offers personalized probiotics based on DNA microbiome testing

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images

Related tags: Probiotics, Gut health, personalized nutrition, Dna, Dna testing

A new company is claiming to offer ‘precision’ probiotics to consumers based on DNA testing of their individual microbiomes.

The company, called Sun Genomics, was founded by entrepreneur Sunny Jain.  The company’s name could be seen as a play on the spelling of his name as well as to an allusion to where he got the idea in the first place.

Jain, who has a masters degree in molecular medicine and cell biology from the University of Iowa, said his search for a better gut health solution started with issues his son was experiencing early in his life.

“My son was suffering gut health issues,” ​Jain told NutraIngredients-USA. “He was exhibiting a high level of an inflammatory microbe that was associated with autism in the literature.”

Extrapolating from one example to many

Jain started searching for a customized approach to alter his son’s microbiome in order to help not only his gut health but also to influence the course of his overall development.  Along the way, he said he realized the approach could work for many consumers, not just for children who appeared to be on the autism spectrum.

“If we stick to the current one-size-fits-all approach to probiotics, we will never come close to realizing its enormous potential for improving gut health issues that are tied to medical conditions that affect billions of people all over the world,”​ said Jain. “From my own experience with my two-year old son, I know that we can and must go beyond this flawed model.”

Jain said the process of testing his son’s microbiome and finding the right probiotics to shift it in a healthy direction took eight months and cost thousands of dollars.  He said that in working with his previous employer, Illumina, a DNA testing firm, Sun Genomics has refined that process to one that takes only six weeks and costs $300, which includes a three month supply of personalized probiotics.

Based on the results of a stool sample test, Sun Genomics, which is based in San Diego, CA, picks probiotics from a list of 70 validated strains in the company’s library, Jain said. The consumer product, which is new to the market, is branded as Floré.  Jain said all of the strains are “micro manufactured” in house.

Is the concept premature?

Jessica ter Haar, PhD, chief science officer of the International Probiotics Association, said the concept is an interesting one. She said she’s concerned, though, whether it might be premature based on the current level of scientific validation and might therefore promise more than it can deliver.

“Personalized medicine is the way of the future and it is likely that probiotics will eventually come to this arena as well. This approach has many advantages,”​ she said.

“Today’s status related to supporting personalized probiotic can be encapsulated in as follows: We currently have lots of quantifiable data on the microbiome, genetics, metabolomics, etc, but with very little context. Validated biomarkers in large enough populations are few and far between, though for specific patient groups, we have a few validated ones. Probiotic mechanisms are still under investigation but more research is needed to generalize beyond the small and very specific study populations,”​ Ter Haar said.

“Lest we go the way of human genome science (over-promising and under-delivering in the last few decades), the science and probiotic sector are not yet ready to ​responsibly support personalized probiotic products for humans. The danger is that premature efforts come to market using poorly understood data and then consumers find no benefit and suddenly we enter situation where probiotics are unfairly branded as useless yet again,”​ she concluded.

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