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Citizen Scientists Successfully Fund Groundbreaking Startup to Sequence their Microbiomes

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) January 16, 2013

uBiome, the first citizen science effort to map the human microbiome, is the world’s largest successful citizen science crowdfunding campaign in history ( Raising over $120,000 from over 1,000 participants, they have significantly exceeded their $100,000 goal. The biotech startup from the University of California, San Francisco branch of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) has sparked the era of microbiome-based personalized medicine -- engaging with the public to provide easily accessible information about their own bodies using the latest in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology.

uBiome provides participants with a catalog of their own microbes. The service details the microbial composition of the body, explains what is known about each type of microbe, and relates the participant's microbiome information to the latest scientific research on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle. The uBiome website provides personal analysis tools so that users can anonymously compare their results with those of family, friends, and crowd data. uBiome is HIPAA compliant and will not release personal identifying data or information to anyone.

The information gained from a uBiome survey can help participants answer their real-world questions about their health, such as:

Dieting: Is that low-carb diet working for you? Certain microbial profiles in the gut are strongly associated with long-term diets, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella).
Sinusitis: Is your nasal microbiome associated with the profile of chronic sinusitis?
Diabetes: How do your gut microflora correlate with those of diabetes patients?
Alcohol: Should you cut your alcohol intake? You may wish to consider it if your gut profile is similar to that of heavy drinkers.
Bowel conditions: Do you have irritable bowel syndrome, or any other bowel condition? You may want to purchase our specially designed kit and survey for bowel disorders.

The project has garnered over $120,000 in crowdfunding and over 1,000 participants, more than four times the number of participants included in the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project, which was completed in 2012. “The more people that participate, the more statistical power is available to answer important scientific questions. The NIH study was a fantastic start, and we are scaling up so we can use “Big Data” to get the answers to the big questions about health and disease.” said co-founder Zachary Apte, PhD. Participants from over thirty-five countries have pledged their support in exchange for having their microbiomes sequenced, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands, France, Germany, India, Singapore, Israel, Uruguay, Bulgaria, South Africa, Estonia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are proud that many of the people who have signed up for our service are from countries that are less-often studied. By using citizen science, we bridge the gap between smaller or developing countries and those with huge research budgets. The gap is both unscientific and unfair, and we want to fix it.” said uBiome co-founder Jessica Richman.

The human body is composed of 10 trillion human cells, but there are ten times as many microbial cells as human cells - the 100 trillion that together form the microbiome. These microbes are not harmful, but rather are co-evolved symbiants, essential collaborators in our physiology. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. The latest research suggests that the correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins.

Some research suggests that microbial activity influences mammalian mood and behavior. Studies have linked microbiome states to conditions including obesity, diabetes, autism, depression, anxiety, eczema, chronic sinusitis, and numerous gut disorders. Infant health appears to benefit from a proper seeding of microbes at birth, with health consequences continuing into adolescence. uBiome allows people to begin to understand how their microbes are affecting their health. It will also allow researchers to ask deeper questions about how this happens.

A decade after the human genome was sequenced, last year marked a major milestone: the completion of the NIH Human Microbiome Project. This project sequenced the genomes of the thousands of species of microbes living in synergy with about 250 healthy volunteers, defining a baseline for what "healthy" means. Researchers are now asking how the "healthy" state itself arises, for instance, how lifestyle, diet, and exercise influence the microbiome, as well as how diseases like Crohn’s and diabetes occur. Sequencing a larger number, and greater diversity of individuals may offer answers.

"We believe the biological information era is going to follow the same trend that the internet did. When citizens became empowered to explore the internet via search engines like Google, usage skyrocketed. With uBiome, people can have cutting edge access to the latest in biomedical science. This is going to change things in a big way," said uBiome co-founder Jessica Richman.

In addition to offering a unique crowdsourced approach to science, uBiome takes an equally unique approach to fundraising, using the crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo. By pledging support for uBiome, anyone can have their personal microbiome sequenced at

"We have reached our initial goal of engaging 1,000 people to have their microbiomes sequenced. Moving forward, we hope to sequence tens of thousands, and engage physicians and other scientists in our research. We also want to allow our citizen scientists to begin asking their own research questions by submitting confidential questionnaires to our user groups." said co-founder, William Ludington, PhD.

Scientific research in the 21st century has seen great strides in collaborative practices, with “citizen science” allowing professional scientists and amateurs to collaborate on large-scale research questions. uBiome takes citizen science a step further by providing users access to cutting edge laboratory research tools to directly address the latest questions in biomedical research of the human microbiome. The more people who join the uBiome community, the more statistical power the project will have to investigate connections between the microbiome and human health.

In contrast to immutable human genome, the microbiome, has the potential to be modified through simple means such as targeted antibiotics, healthful probiotics, diet and other lifestyle interventions. Thus, the microbiome may provide some of the most important medical breakthroughs of our era. uBiome ultimately aims to empower participants to manage their microbiomes to improve their health. By joining uBiome, citizen scientists can explore their own microbiome and be partners in the process of scientific discovery.


If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, call uBiome at +1 415-275-2461 or email

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