Innovator Key People• Professor Philip Hugenholtz – Founder• Professor Gene Tyson – Founder• Professor Ian Frazer – Director• Blake Wills – CEO• Dr Alena Pribyl - Senior Scientist & Research Officer • Dr Paula Smith-Brown – Head Dietitian
Microba is Australia’s first company to offer gut microbiome profiles using metagenomic sequencing. Its first consumer product is the Microba Insight™ Sampling Kit, an information tool that shows the abundance and functional potential of the micro-organisms living in the gut. In March, Microba raised $7 million in series A Capital to implement the technology and develop diagnostic and biotherapeutic products. Their research and development team, made up of some of Australia’s leading bioinformaticians and scientists, is working to advance our understanding of how the gut microbiome influences health.
Microba is a new biotechnology venture headed-up by cervical cancer vaccine pioneer Professor Ian Frazer and is the first Australian company to offer gut microbiome ‘metagenomic’ sequencing technology direct-to-consumer, as well as to researchers and clinicians. The technology is significantly more accurate and comprehensive than existing methods of DNA testing for gut bacteria such as 16s rRNA sequencing or longstanding approaches such as testing live cultures.
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Microba Insight™ Sampling Kit
Australian biotech firm Microba launched new gut sequencing technology to help 10.7M Aussies suffering from digestive problems.
Energy Minister, the Hon. Dr Anthony Lynham officially launched Microba at a private event at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane on Tuesday 17th July 2018.
10.7 million Australians – roughly half the population - complain of some form of digestive problem and the cause of these gut health issues are still relatively unknown. However, as science continues to progress, there are growing links that suggest the bacteria and microorganisms living in the gut (microbiome) have a huge influence on our gut health, wellbeing and even mental health.
In order to understand more we have to be able to see what bugs are there and most importantly, know what they are doing. A new technology launched in Australia developed in collaboration with the University of Queensland, offers huge promise of better gut health for the many Australian’s suffering from various gut-related ailments.
The Queensland-based biotechnology company is the first to offer gut microbiome profiles using metagenomic sequencing, the most advanced method of DNA testing currently available.
The Microba Insight Sampling kit, Microba’s direct-to-consumer test, provides a comprehensive, high-resolution picture of the species of bacteria and micro-organisms residing in the gut (abundance), what they are doing (functional potential) and most importantly, information on their known health associations. The test is significantly more accurate and comprehensive than existing methods of DNA testing for gut bacteria or longstanding approaches such as testing live cultures and offers huge promise of better gut health for the Australian public in the future.
Whilst the tool isn’t diagnostic, there is new and growing evidence being discovered each week regarding the links between the microbiome and human health and wellbeing.
Blake Wills, CEO of Microba, says, “This technology is crucial for understanding the role that the gut microbiome can play in treating disease and improving patient outcomes. I am incredibly excited to be introducing world-leading and an Australian-first in biotechnology, developed in collaboration with the University of Queensland and the Translational Research Centre at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Alongside our founders, Professor Philip Hugenholtz and Professor Gene Tyson and our esteemed director, Professor Ian Frazer, I am confident we can lead the charge in metagenomic microbiome research in Australia and improve the wellbeing of individuals and families across the globe.”
Dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan, who says, “Research into how the microbes in the gut may be affecting both physical and mental health is a hugely exciting area, but in order to understand more we have to be able to see what bugs are there and know what they are doing. In essence, metagenomic testing does just that and is therefore accelerating this area of research. The hope is that in the future we will be able to influence health by manipulating the gut microbiome.”
The technology will be made available to consumers, clinicians and researchers with the Microba Discovery Portal™ housing patients’ personalised reports in a safe and secure environment. The kit itself is discreet, non-invasive and easy to do: all customers have to do is swab a small amount of faecal matter from their used toilet paper and mail the sample back to Microba in a pre-paid package. Customers will be able to track progress via the Microba Discovery Portal™.
The user-friendly portal is educational, interactive and helps consumers make sense of their personalised report by breaking down the key findings from their microbiome sample. It also uses interactive widgets, animations and graphs to help them understand what the microbial species in their gut may be doing.
Microba customers will also have the option to participate in the Microba Future Insights Program. A program established to build a deeper understanding of the human microbiome to drive innovation in healthcare. Each individual can choose to share their anonymous health data and make a meaningful contribution to new discoveries which may help future generations live healthier lives.
About Metagenomic Sequencing
Metagenomic sequencing is the most advanced sequencing method available. This method extracts the DNA from a sample and then directly sequences all the DNA. With this large amount of data, a high-resolution picture of all the micro-organisms present (e.g. bacteria, archaea, fungi and protists) identified to the species level can be provided. Additionally, insight into the functional capabilities of the micro-organisms can also be provided, such as the ability to produce short chain fatty acids or break down different food components. Until recently, the high cost of metagenomic sequencing and difficulty of analysis has prohibited many researchers and industry from using this method. With recent advances in sequencing technology, this cost has now reached a point where (for groups with the appropriate technology and capability) it has become economically viable to use metagenomic sequencing for large-scale projects. This method provides the most comprehensive and high-resolution view of the gut microbiome currently available.
About the Microba Insight Report™ and Discovery Portal™
What is there
• Bacterial species present and their abundance
• The proportion of key fungi and protists present
• Identification of indicator species that have been associated with good or poor health
• Identification of bacteria commonly used as probiotics
• The overall diversity of your microbiome
• Predictions about your ethnicity, age, body mass index, and other factors based solely on your microbiome information.
What they can do
• The potential of your microbiome to digest carbohydrates, protein and fat
• The potential of micro-organisms in your sample to produce essential vitamins and some neurotransmitters
• Personalised dietary information to support individuals to promote a healthy microbiome.
How you compare
• Compare your results to different groups of people based on categories such as a healthy cohort (Default), diet, age, gender and fitness
• Easy to understand descriptions of what is currently known about each bacterial species in nontechnical language are also provided so an individual can gain an in-depth understanding of their gut microbiome. This allows individuals to discover and compare their gut microbiome at their own pace and learn as much as they like about current knowledge on the micro-organisms inhabiting their gut.
One of the key value features for a customer is the dietary information provided. The Microba Insight™ test identifies the beneficial bacterial species present in your gut at low levels. While it is difficult to introduce new bacterial species into an individual’s microbiome, it is possible to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria already present by supplying them with the right prebiotics.
Microba reports include a list of the beneficial bacteria present in an individual and the prebiotics those bacteria utilise. Key focus is given to beneficial bacteria that are at low abundance in the person’s sample. An individual can then print a shopping list of foods that will supply those prebiotics to help promote the growth of those bacteria.