uBiome raises $22M, announces new DNA-sequencing microbiome screening test

By Heather Mack
03:32 pm
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San Francisco-based uBiome, which makes a direct-to-consumer microbial genomic testing kit, has closed on a $22 million Series B funding round, led by 8VC with additional funding from Slow Ventures, Stanford’s StartX Fund and various angel investors. The funding will be used to deploy uBiome’s new testing kit, SmartGut, a sequencing-based clinical microbiome screening test.

With an at-home collection kit, SmartGut aims to give individuals and their doctors access to a comprehensive screening test to weed out important microorganisms (which can only be detected through DNA sequencing) that could be causing health distress. The test, which is not yet available, requires users to swab a tiny amount of fecal matter with a cotton swab, and the material is sent directly to the UBiome laboratory for sequencing. Once the results are back, SmartGut will give users actionable information about their gut microbiome to share with their doctors.

“The SmartGut test is a transformation of the way we think about clinical microbiology,” uBiome CTO and cofounder Dr. Zachary Apte said in a statement. “It leverages the power of DNA sequencing to test for various microorganisms simultaneously and puts the power of microbial genetics into the hands of clinicians.”

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uBiome’s lab, which was recently accredited by the College of American Pathologists, uses 16s rRNA gene sequencing and a custom bioinformatics pipeline to identify dozens of bugs associated with specific infections, health risks and gut conditions, and the company has submitted an article detailing their methodologies to a peer-reviewed journal.

Founded in 2012 and an alum of Y Combinator, uBiome entered the market with the goal of learning more about the human microbiome and how it contributes to health.  Over the past four years, the company has collected tens of thousands of gut sample with their basic, $89 testing kits that give a breakdown of the microorganisms inside an individual's gut and offering a sort of "DNA fingerprint" for each person's microbiome. The SmartGut builds on that technology by looking for the specific microbes associated with illnesses, in turn inspiring individuals to take action to change aspects of their lifestyle that may be contributing to poor health.

“We learn more about health every year, but unnecessarily negative health outcomes are common because the system doesn’t encourage people to take preventative action,” 8VC founding partner Joe Lonsdale said in a statement. “By making gut health testing faster and easier, uBiome will unquestionably have a massive impact.” 

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