Biotech startup µBiome has launched a crowdfunded project to map the human microbiome, the spectrum of foreign organisms that outnumber our own bodily cells by ten to one. “µBiome will be using techniques from the NIH’s $173 million dollar Human Microbiome Project to find out what microbes are living in your body, compare you to others, and keep you up to date on research that applies to your data.” Most microbes in the body are not harmful but have evolved to become helpful collaborators in some essential processes like digestion and the production of antibodies.
What’s the Big Idea?
Many health organizations see an enormous power in citizen scientists, i.e. individuals who use a specialized lab kit to collect important data before sending the results back to healthcare institutions. µBiome co-founder Zachary Apte, who has a PhD in biophysics, spoke on the goals of the company’s new project: “First, we want to make the science and the technology available to everyone. Now anyone can have their microbiome sequenced. Second, we want to curate the world’s largest microbiome dataset.” The data could eventually help individuals regulate their own microbiome to become healthier.