Guest post: uBiome puts microbiome science in the hands of the people

It is a fascinating time to be doing microbiology. One of the latest occurrences is the spread of work on the human microbiome and even more recently the launching of several crowdfunding / citizen science efforts in this area. (Full disclosure – I am a collaborator on one of these efforts – the American Gut Project).  Another one of these efforts is a startup called uBiome. After seeing the announcement of their launch I asked Zac Apte, one of the founders, if he would be interested in writing a guest post for my blog on what they are doing. And, well, he agreed. And it is below (the post title “uBiome puts microbiome science in the hands of the people is from him too – I added the pic).


uBiome puts microbiome science in the hands of the people

Most people think “germs” is a dirty word. That’s what we’re taught since preschool. But the truth is that microbes aren’t just good or bad — it’s a lot more complicated than that. We are surrounded by microbes (on and inside of us) that form a complex ecosystem that supports and nourishes our health.

uBiome (www.indiegogo.com/ubiome) is a citizen science startup focused on allowing people direct access to this cutting ed research. By amassing a large set of microbiome samples along with health and lifestyle data, we will perform a microbiome-wide association study, examining specific traits as well as diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and depression in the context of the human microbiome.

We hope participants will join our community and track themselves in the long term — as you change your diet or exercise regime, begin taking a new medication, such as an antibiotic, or simply as you age. Now is a great time for a first data point.

Finally, we’re not just polling people for their poop. We’re also polling them for their creativity in scientific research. When our first dataset goes live, we’re going to ask our citizen scientists to form their own cohorts and we’ll empower them (statistically speaking) to test their own hypotheses. That’s our vision.

Our team has expertise in metagenomics as well as roots in population genetics, computer science, and network mathematics. We also have a team of scientific advisors which includes inventor and MacArthur Genius award winner Dr. Joseph DeRisi, biotechnology pioneer and inventor of the recombinant Hepatitis B vaccine Pablo Valenzuela, as well as doctors, bioinformaticians, and researchers.

We really appreciate Jonathan Eisen reaching out to give us this opportunity to say hello on the Tree of Life blog — and we look forward to engaging with you!

By Zac, Will and Jessica – the uBiome team

American Gut Project: Food, crowd sourcing, citizen science, open science, and MICROBES – what could be better?

A press release just came out announcing the American Gut Project: New public gut bacteria study expected to reach around world | University of Colorado Boulder.  From Rob Knight, Jeff Leach and others this project aims to engage the public in a large scale study of the connection between diet and the human gut microbiome.  Read more about it in the press release and I am sure more will come out soon.  Full disclosure – I have agreed to be a collaborator on the project – though as a fully open project I think pretty much anyone could be a collaborator.  Anyone this is definitely worth checking out.

As an aside – this is not the only crowd sourcing microbiome project out there.  I just became aware of another one called uBiome and I am working on getting a guest blog post from the organizers.  The American Gut project has got dozens of the major players in microbiome research involved.  And with Rob Knight being one of the key players one can expect it to big, cutting edge things.  Not sure about the scope / plans of uBiome but hopefully we will find out more soon.