New paper from Microbiome Insights co-founder on critical window for the gut microbiome in infants and the later occurrence of asthma

Among serious and chronic childhood diseases, asthma is the most prevalent. Currently there exists no cure for asthma—only treatments designed to help manage symptoms. Recently, a body of research attempting to unravel how this condition develops  in young children has emerged, so that prevention may one day eliminate or reduce the burden of this chronic condition.

Recent work identified the existence of a critical window during the early lives of both mice and children, during which gut microbial changes are associated with the development of asthma. This provided an avenue to explore the role of the gut microbiome during early childhood development and the onset of chronic diseases like asthma. Importantly though, we know the gut microbiome varies greatly among those raised in different geographic regions. Therefore, understanding how changes in gut microbiota related to asthma development differ globally may provide valuable insights into the mechanism of asthma development.

A new paper, led by Microbiome Insights co-founder Brett Finlay and published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, evaluated the associations of fungal and bacterial changes (dysbiosis) in infants raised in the non-industrialized setting of rural Ecuador. The research was conducted as a collaboration between members of the Universities of British Colombia and Calgary, the BC Children’s Hospital, and Universidad Internacional del Ecuador. Children with atopic wheeze (27 in total) along with 70 healthy controls were identified and their bacterial and eukaryotic gut microbiota analysed at age 3 months. Stool samples were collected and sequencing of the 16S and 18S regions predicted bacterial metagenomes while fecal short chain fatty acids were determined via gas chromatography.

Results indicated that, similar to the previous findings in Canadian children, microbial dysbiosis in Ecuadorian infants at 3 months was associated with the subsequent development of atopic wheeze. Surprisingly though, the dysbiosis observed in Ecuador involved different bacteria taxa as well as some fungal species, and this was more pronounced than in Canada. Some predictions based on the metagenome analysis also emphasized significant dysbiosis-associated differences in genes involved in carbohydrate and taurine metabolism. The fecal short-chain fatty acid acetate was reduced while caproate was increased in children at 3 months who later developed atopic wheeze.

This work continues to provide evidence that there is a critical window during the first 100 days of life during which microbial dysbiosis is strongly associated with development of atopic wheeze. The study also yielded several valuable pieces of information. Despite the involvement of different bacteria taxa, both the Canadian and Ecuadorian populations had decreased fecal acetate, suggesting alterations to fermentation patterns may be a common factor associated with atopic wheeze. Furthermore, the pronounced role of fungal dysbiosis in this study led researchers to recommend that “the role of P. kudriavzevii and other yeasts should be explored in mechanistic studies using animal models.”

Along with more studies characterizing the early microbiome in more communities around the world, optimized biomarker studies of microbial taxa and metabolites could lead to better predictions of risk and therapeutic strategies to restore gut microbial health as a prevention method.

 

As founding sponsor of Hanson Wade Skin Health & Dermatology conference, Microbiome Insights speaks about skin microbiome study design

With its globally leading expertise in skin microbiome testing, Microbiome Insights was a proud founding sponsor of the Skin Health & Dermatology Conference, held in San Diego September 10th to 12th, 2018. According to conference organizers Hanson Wade, the aim of the event was “understanding the underlying biology of the skin microbiome for translation into safe, effective, and commercially viable dermatological therapeutics & cosmetic products”. Participants heard about microbiome-focused skin products already on the market and those under development by companies around the world.,

Microbiome Insights CEO Malcolm Kendall spoke at the conference, with a presentation entitled: “Swab to Data – Considerations for Designing Skin Microbiome Studies”. The talk covered expertise developed by the Microbiome Insights team by working with leading scientists and industry partners in cosmetics and dermatology, and explained how the company has developed new 16S V4 region primers for improved skin microbiome analyses.

Also on the speakers’ list was Greg Hillebrand, Senior Principal Scientist at Amway, who spoke about a study carried out in partnership with Microbiome Insights: “Temporal Changes in the Facial Skin Microbiome: A One-Year Longitudinal Study in Normal Healthy Men and Women”.

To find out more about the conference, see here.

Microbiome Insights co-founder Dr. Brett Finlay to speak at Institut Pasteur event

Microbiome Insights co-founder and co-CSO Brett Finlay will be one of the distinguished speakers heading to Paris from October 15th to 16th 2018 for the Institut Pasteur meeting: Modeling the Mammalian Microbiota Host Superorganism, Current Tools and Challenges.

Knowledge about the role of microbiota and microbial metabolites in host functions and health has steadily increased over the past two decades. With mechanistic insights enabled by animal models and an increasing ability to characterize microbial communities during both development and adulthood, researchers are on the cusp of real therapeutic treatments. The Institut Pasteur meeting will bring together academic and industry leaders from this field to share new visions on host-microbiota mutualisms and parasitism, and to discuss the latest techniques and models. Along with Dr. Finlay, some exciting names on the program include Dr. Andrew Macpherson of Inselspital in Bern, Switzerland, giving the keynote address, and Marion Leclerc from the MICALIS Institute in Jouy-En-Josas, France and Philippe Sansonetti of Institut Pasteur.

Finlay will present his talk, entitled The Role of the Early Life Microbiota in Malnutrition and Environmental Enteropathy during the ‘Models of Pathogenesis’ session on Monday, October 15th. He has published over 500 papers and, as a principal investigator at the University of British Columbia he studies how microbes interact with hosts to influence health and disease. His lab developed the first animal model for the study of environmental enteropathy, a key feature of childhood malnutrition. Ongoing work with this model is now funded by the Gates Foundation in order to explore how it can better our understanding of the consequences of malnutrition. The Finlay lab also investigates the risks for childhood asthma stemming from microbiota and metabolic alterations during infancy, and were the first lab to demonstrate that early life intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in asthma susceptibility.

By understanding how microbes colonize the small intestine and cause stunted growth and inflammation, Finlay and his collaborators hope to develop new nutritional therapies for human malnutrition. His lab’s work is essential for understanding the microbiota-host superorganism and the associations that are essential to maintain good health and development—making Finlay a “can’t miss” speaker at this prestigious meeting.

Microbiome Insights hosts students for educational laboratory tour

JUNE 15, 2018 — Microbiome Insights was pleased to welcome an enthusiastic group of post-secondary students from Vancouver’s Alexander College this week for a laboratory tour and presentation.

During the visit team member Ben Tantika, Senior Next-generation Sequencing Technician, described the cellular and molecular biology techniques used in research labs to answer scientific questions.

The second year biology students heard about the importance of knowing the ways in which biological sciences techniques can be applied in both research and industrial settings. Tantika also helped the students understand how a career in life sciences can take shape, giving anecdotes about his own previous experiences as an international student studying at UBC Okanagan.

 

Dr. Julian Davies speaks at celebration marking the opening of Microbiome Insights’ new lab facility

The Microbiome Insights team gathered with nearly 100 clients, friends, and supporters on May 28th for a champagne reception to celebrate the company’s continued growth and the opening of its new laboratory facility in the award-winning Pharmaceutical Sciences Building at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The event was topped off by remarks by the esteemed Dr. Julian Davies, UBC Professor Emeritus and chair of the External Scientific Board of the NIH Human Microbiome Project from 2009-2012.

In his speech, Davies gave a brief history of how the Human Microbiome Project came to be. He traced microbiome research up to the present day, saying: “Microbiome science is really getting going and I think it’s great that UBC has its own microbiome company. We should support them as strongly as possible.”

Company co-founders Drs. Brett Finlay and Bill Mohn were in attendance at the reception, along with Microbiome Insights clients, advisors, investors, granting agencies, and strategic collaborators.

CEO Malcolm Kendall said, “The microbiome is a really important area of science that is an important part of human, animal, plant and environmental health.” He emphasized that the company is not merely a service provider — but that the team members have a wealth of knowledge and are actively moving the science forward. “As we gain more understanding in this area we hope to be able to use microbiome derived products, tools, and services to enhance health and potentially cure or treat diseases,” he said.

Kendall also announced that Microbiome Insights hopes to foster the growing microbiome research community at UBC as a founding sponsor of the first annual UBC Microbiome Conference, to be held November 8 to 10, 2018.

The company hosted a microbiome poster competition alongside the reception, with winners receiving free sequencing services. Kevin Zhong, a postdoc at UBC’s Suttle Lab, received the top prize (50 free samples of amplicon sequencing); Peter Rahfeld and Spence Macdonald from Withers Lab received 2nd place (30 free samples of amplicon sequencing) and 3rd place (20 free samples of amplicon sequencing), respectively. The people’s choice award (a cash prize of $250) went to Peter Dobranowski of BCCHR.

See here for some photos from the event:

Dr. Julian Davies speaks with Microbiome Insights CEO Malcolm Kendall and guests; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

 

Drinks table awaiting guest arrival; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

 

Microbiome Insights co-founder Dr. Bill Mohn speaks with attendees; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

 

Poster competition held in conjunction with the reception; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

 

Remarks by Dr. Julian Davies; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

 

Microbiome Insights co-founders, employees, and advisors; PHOTO CREDIT: Amer Abu-Khajil

 

PRESS RELEASE: Microbiome Insights, Global Leader in Microbiome Testing, Expands to New Lab Facilities on UBC Campus

Company’s rapid growth spurs move to new state-of-the-art facility

VANCOUVER, British Columbia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Microbiome Insights, Inc. has announced the opening of its new laboratory on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). The company, a leading end-to-end service provider for microbiome DNA sequencing and bioinformatic analysis, has expanded into its new state-of-the-art lab in order to meet the needs of over 100 clients.

“We have experienced rapid growth in our business and across the microbiome testing industry,” says CEO Malcolm Kendall. “This move is a major milestone for our company and helps us meet the needs of our growing client base, to deliver the high-quality service they have come to expect from us.”

Founded by two world-leading microbiome researchers, Drs. Brett Finlay and Bill Mohn of UBC, Microbiome Insights has grown rapidly since its incorporation in 2015—supporting over 200 microbiome studies across academia and industry. The new laboratory, located in the UBC Pharmaceutical Sciences Building, enables the company to expand its capacity, hire additional laboratory technicians and initiate clinical laboratory (CLIA) certification.

Brad Popovich, former Chief Scientific Officer at Genome British Columbia and Chair of Microbiome Insights’ Board of Directors, says, “The emergence of leading companies like Microbiome Insights is a sentinel for the growth of the microbiome testing marketplace; they are following a similar pattern of accelerated growth the field of genomics testing experienced over the past two decades.”

Microbiome Insights marked the opening of the new laboratory on May 28th with a reception and microbiome poster competition. Dr. Julian Davies, one of the scientists that spearheaded the NIH Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and Chair of the HMP External Scientific Board until 2015, spoke about the importance of microbiome research and the unique benefits of a UBC-based microbiome testing company.

See the original BusinessWire press release here.

Microbiome Insights to mark opening of new lab space with champagne reception and microbiome poster competition

Microbiome Insights, Inc. is planning to move operations into a new laboratory space in UBC’s Pharmaceutical Sciences building — and to mark the occasion, they will host a champagne reception with a poster competition open to local microbiome researchers.

Poster competition details:

The competition is open to all researchers and research assistants affiliated with UBC. Participants may bring any poster related to microbiome data collected within the past five years — up to 3 posters per participant may be entered.

Posters previously presented at academic conferences are encouraged! Most standard poster sizes can be accommodated.

Posters will be judged on both scientific content and presentation. Judges will award first, second, and third prizes as well as a “crowd favourite”.

DATE: Monday, May 28th, 2018

TIME: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

PLACE: Pharmaceutical Sciences Building, UBC Campus (2405 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, V6T 1Z3), Mezzanine floor

Participants should bring their poster for setup between 1:00 and 3:30 on May 28th. Winners will be announced during the champagne reception at 5:30.

Prizes are as follows:

First place: 50 free samples of amplicon sequencing ($5,500 value)
Second place: 30 free samples of amplicon sequencing ($3,300 value)
Third place: 20 free samples of amplicon sequencing ($2,200 value)
Crowd favourite: Cash prize of $250

RSVP for the poster competition to Jen Bower: jbower1023@gmail.com

Only the first 30 entries can be accepted, so email now!

 

 

Microbiome Insights included in list of BC’s top emerging life sciences companies

 

MARCH 14, 2018 — Microbiome Insights is honoured to be featured in the 2018 Emerging Rocket List by the management consulting firm Rocket Builders. The Emerging Rocket List is part of “Ready to Rocket”, a business recognition program that showcases British Columbia’s technology companies with the greatest potential for revenue growth as well as investment and market breakthrough.

The Ready to Rocket program encompasses 4 technology sectors: Information and Communications Technology, Cleantech, Life Science, and Digital Health. Microbiome Insights was one of the 10 companies included in the Emerging Rocket Life Science List, winning this recognition for the second year in a row.

Lists in the Ready to Rocket program are predictive of success; since 2003, the program has accurately identified future growth leaders in each category through rigorous sector and company analyses spanning several months.

To qualify as a candidate in the Life Science category, companies must have established industry relationships and must also be undergoing customer validation and regulatory approval. The selection committee assesses candidates based on early indicators of long-term potential and increasing shareholder value, such as passing key regulatory hurdles and achieving related validation steps.

“We identify companies that have both innovative technology and a fit within the industry value chain. Our analysis of the market and the company progress led to our selection of Microbiome Insights as a Ready to Rocket Life Science company,” said Thealzel Lee, Senior Partner, Rocket Builders.

PRESS RELEASE: Exploring the ‘second genome’ for new insights: Genome BC invests in local microbiome startup

DECEMBER 6, 2017 – As part of its Industry Innovation Program (I² Fund), Genome BC is investing CAD $750,000 in a local microbiome testing company—Vancouver-based Microbiome Insights (MBI), which provides next-generation-sequencing-based analytical testing and consulting services to microbiome researchers in academia and industry. The new funding adds to the company’s recent round of equity financing, which closed in October.

Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms – including bacteria, viruses and fungi – that inhabit humans, animals, plants and other environments. These tiny universes perform diverse functions; microbiomes are critical to human health, affecting immune system function, vitamin and hormone synthesis, drug metabolism and energy harvest from the diet.

Detrimental changes to the human microbiome have been linked to allergies, asthma, colon cancer, C. difficile infections, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative disease and many other diseases. Genomic tools are yielding a growing body of knowledge about these links, paving the way for new opportunities to develop microbiome-based clinical grade diagnostics and therapeutics.

Malcolm Kendall, CEO of Microbiome Insights, says, “The explosive growth in microbiome research – given its fundamental importance to human, animal, plant and environmental health – has significantly outpaced existing capacity to provide microbiome testing, especially outside of academia. The building of this new industry is a unique market opportunity.”

“At Microbiome Insights, our ability to advance innovation through microbiome analysis is borne out by our rapid growth and expanding client list. We offer scientific leadership and customized solutions for our clients’ unique research challenges,” says Kendall.

A recent estimate put the global microbiome sequencing services market at over USD $500 million in 2016. With microbiome knowledge in the nascent phase, significant investment potential exists in this burgeoning market environment.

Dr. Tony Brooks, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at Genome BC, says, “Our I² financing of $750,000 combined with MBI’s recent round of equity funding will be used to accelerate MBI’s sales and marketing activities, make new hires, the buildout of a new CLIA-certified lab facility, and the development and launch of new services and personal health test products.”

Genome BC’s I² Fund provides commercialization support for companies developing innovative life science technologies that address biological challenges in key economic sectors in BC: Agriculture, Energy and Mining, Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Forestry, and Human Health. The I² Fund also supports digital health and other technologies that further move precision medicine into clinical practice. I² funding is repayable and is allocated to promising technologies (products, processes or services) at the early stages of commercial development. The Fund aims to provide risk capital that is concurrently matched by other public or private funding sources.

See this press release online here.

Microbiome Insights sponsors inaugural Microbiome Human Nutrition Summit in Boston

Microbiome Insights Inc. was an exhibitor and sponsor for the first Microbiome Human Nutrition Summit, held Nov. 15-16, 2017 in Boston. The event was focused on helping prebiotic, probiotic, food, and pharmaceutical manufacturers translate microbiome research into next-generation food and nutrition products that improve human health.

The conference covered a wide range of topics in the areas of microbiome, health, and nutrition, including establishment of cause and effect in the microbiome, control of the gut through dietary modifications, and the relevance of infant microbiome in infant health and nutrition.

Notable speakers included Dr. Chris Damman, a program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who discussed how gut health impacts health care interventions in developing countries; and Dr. David Kyle, CEO of Evolve Biosystems Inc, who spoke about the role of Bifidobacterium infantis in infant nutrition.