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Poop is a hot research commodity. Proof: Silicon Valley and big government agencies alike are knocking at the bathroom door. The microbiome startup uBiome says it plans to announce a collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze over 10,000 stool samples from hospital patients.
As research into the importance of the bacteria living in people’s guts—the microbiome—has become more common, the potential in turning the genetic sequences of those intestinal critters into a useful tool for doctors is obvious—problem is, it’s only potential. No one has quite figured out how. A healthy community of gut microbes isn’t easily reduced to a single metric, like blood sugar or cholesterol levels. So uBiome and the CDC have set out to develop something a “Microbiome Disruption Index” to track how treatments, like antibiotics, alter gut microbes.
CDC will collect the samples, and uBiome will sequence them. The San Francisco-based startup currently sells microbiome sampling kits directly to consumers, who mail the kits back to uBiome for analysis—much like 23andMe with its DNA sequencing kits. uBiome recently started offering grants in the form of $100,000 worth of kits to researchers. The CDC, which has microbiome on the brain (so to speak), decided to apply. “Working with companies developing expertise in this area is something we’re interested in,” says Alison Halpin, a CDC epidemiologist. “And CDC is always looking for partnerships.”
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