Interest in the gut microbiome as a science and industry has exploded over the past decade, with a new SEC filing showing that wellness service Viome raised $36.4 million of a larger $105 million round.
Applying artificial intelligence to complex biological data
Viome applies artificial intelligence to complex biological data to provide personalized diet, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for healthy living.
Launched in 2016, the Seattle-area wellness startup uses advanced Metatranscriptomic Sequencing Technology to provide insights into gut health.
The company uses proprietary technology licensed exclusively through its partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Through a stool sample, the technology identifies bacteria, viruses, fungi, phages, yeast, parasites and other organisms living in the gut microbiome. Viome analyzes all the strains and species of microorganisms in the gut and then determines exactly how active they all are. From there, Viome runs the data through an advanced AI algorithm called VIE, which uses an extensive database to come up with personalized nutrition recommendations to balance the gut microbiome and ecosystem.
"Modern healthcare is really symptom-care. It puts the needs of the system – hospitals and insurance companies, above the patient," Viome CEO Naveen Jain said in a press release. "With Viome, we're allowing people to reclaim control of their health so that chronic illness can become a choice rather than just a matter of bad luck."
The “Viome Gut Intelligence Kit” is regularly priced $399, with various sales running during the holiday season.
Driving M&A activity
Jain is the founder of several other companies including Moon Express, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace.
Last April, Viome raised $25 million from several investors, bringing the startup’s total funding at the time to $45 million.
Viome purchased Campbell Soup Company’s personalized nutrition company, Habit in February. Habit develops nutritional recommendations based on an individual’s biology, metabolism and personal goals.
In recent months the industry has seen a number of consolidations in the personalized nutrition space. Nestlé Health Science acquired Persona, which offers personalized vitamin subscriptions based on lifestyle choice. Another notable move was from Dutch ingredients giant Royal DSM, who acquired AVA, a Boston-based company that offers a digital personalized nutrition platform. Also attracting investment attention this year has been Berlin-based Baze, which completed a $6 million Series A round led by Nature’s Way. Baze offers US consumers an at-home blood testing kit to measure an individual’s micronutrient levels.
Microbiome: from niche to mainstream
The category is a huge opportunity, with the global personalized retail nutrition & wellness market size expected to reach $50 billion by 2025. The acquisitions give players a larger global footprint and highlight a trend that appears to be here to stay in the personalized nutrition category.
Further shining a spotlight on the importance of gut health, Bill Gates recently wrote in an editorial that new insights into gut bacteria could help prevent malnutrition, obesity, asthma, allergies as well as some auto-immune diseases.