Microbiome Insights’ Year in Review: 2017 by the numbers

This year, 2017, will go down in Microbiome Insights history as the year the company hit its stride and established itself as a leader in the microbiome testing field. The challenging work our team has been doing since we were founded in 2015 clearly paid off—as evidenced by our expanding client list, our strong financial position, and our team’s awards and recognitions.

In the past twelve months we have had to more than double the size of our Vancouver-based team, hiring some of the best technicians, scientists, and bioinformaticians to meet the needs of our clients.

 

Here are some highlights of our company’s 2017, by the numbers:

 

Place out of 150+ companies in the 17th annual BCIC-New Ventures Competition, the largest and longest-running competition for tech companies in BC. The judges, who award $300,000 in cash and prizes to early-stage start-up companies, honoured Microbiome Insights with second place overall and with the Center for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) Life Sciences prize.

 

 

Number of conferences Microbiome Insights attended as exhibitors or sponsors. Our team enjoyed meeting new and existing clients at important academic and industry conferences in all corners of North America—from ASM Microbe 2017 in New Orleans to the Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum in San Diego. We also trailblazed as one of the first microbiome-centered companies to attend two genomics events: ASHG 2017 in Orlando and the 3rd annual Understand your Genome conference in Boston.

 

 

British Columbia (BC) life sciences companies (including Microbiome Insights) on the ‘Ready to Rocket’ 2017 Life Science Emerging Rocket Lista business recognition program that profiles technology companies in BC with the greatest potential for revenue growth. These “Emerging Rocket” companies are recognized as having a clear business model and go-to-market strategy that will prove attractive to investors.

 

 

Number of microbiome studies our team supported this year—across a broad range of human, animal, agricultural, and environmental applications. We are very proud that many of these were repeat clients.

 

 

Number of dollars invested in our company by Genome BC, following successful equity financing. In combination with funds from the company’s recent round of equity funding, this will help build out our new CLIA-certified lab facility, grow our team and capabilities, and develop and launch new services and tests in 2018.

 

Here are some of the technical insights from our team this year:

  • The staying power of amplicon-based analyses: For studies whose primary objective is to get a comprehensive picture of the bacteria in an environment, or to build models of disease classification (for many diseases) data derived from 16S genes is as good as it gets
  • The power of multi-omics integration: Although it still poses technical challenges, integration of multiomics datasets can reveal things far beyond what each technology can show separately

And finally, here are our team’s picks for the hot areas to watch in microbiome science in the coming year:

  • The contribution of microbes to “inflammaging”—the progressive increase in pro-inflammatory status that occurs with age
  • Progress toward microbiome therapies that modulate the brain through the gut-brain axis
  • Larger and longer studies on the skin microbiome, looking at lifestyle factors and making more definitive associations between skin microbes (composition and function) and healthy skin
  • Tracking the presence of viruses in the gut microbiome and gaining insights about health implications

A very happy 2018, from our team to you!

 

 

Microbiome Research: Don’t Forget The Fungi

Microbial Interactions In Living Systems

The emerging field of the microbiome is in pursuit of understanding the microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions that occur in virtually all living systems. This includes interactions critical to plant and animal health. The fundamental question is: What role(s) do the microbes and their functions play in broader systems?

Advancements in technology, such as next generation sequencing, have allowed us to overcome the barriers of culture-dependent methods of identification and classification, providing the ability to sequence and identify a more complete community of microbes in any given sample with a high degree of sensitivity and reproducibility.

It seems, however, that the term ‘microbiome’ tends to implicitly refer to commensal and pathogenic bacteria, with very little attention paid to the role of eukaryotic organisms. As such, the field is heavily utilizing 16S amplicon sequencing to increase our understanding of these bacteria. But what about other amplicons such as 18S or ITS (internal transcribed spacer) that shed light on eukaryotic or fungal communities?

Penicillium, ascomycetous fungi of major importance

The Mycobiome

In recent years, there have been more published data elucidating the presence and contribution of fungi in certain disease states. These fungi have been shown to interact with bacterial communities in either a synergistic or competitive manner. In either relationship, these fungi may be a critical component of the progression of such diseases—including hepatitis B, cystic fibrosis, and even inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, researchers have coined the term ‘mycobiome’ to refer to the communities of fungi that may play an interesting role in the system.

The human body is a unique ecosystem, and we have long known mucosal sites are abundant with fungal flora.  What we are beginning to identify is how these communities interact with other sites across the body, where bacterial communities reside. Besides the specific diseases associated with fungi, we are seeing evidence that overall gut health is maintained by a degree of fungal-bacterial interaction. Mechanistically, the mycobiome appears to play a role in inflammation and metabolism by modulating the bacterial microbiome.

Environmental microbiomes are also of growing interest in the microbiome field, with a particular focus on ocean microbiomes, air pollutants, and soil microbiomes. In soil microbiomes, where fungi are prevalent, researchers are interested in certain subcategories; studies focus on the soil microbiome, the plant/rhizosphere microbiome, or the point at which these two microbiomes interact, which is called the mycorrhizosphere. The fungal component of these microbial communities plays a critical role in the nutrition and growth of plants as well as in the exclusion of plant diseases. Mycorrhizal fungi have even been shown to mediate signaling between plants.

Amplicon Sequencing: 16S, 18S, & ITS

Unlike other next generation sequencing labs that have exclusively focused on the approaches of molecular biology and genomics, Microbiome Insights also pulls from expertise in microbial ecology and infectious disease to provide a more complete picture of the ecosystem. We have implemented standardized protocols for 16S (Prokaryotic) sequencing and have developed robust workflows for both 18S (Eukaryotic) and ITS2 (fungal) sequencing using the Illumina Miseq.  We apply these approaches as necessary to address specific scientific questions, and can build on this data using shotgun metagenomic sequencing. Altogether our expertise allows us to provide our customers with a full suite of tests—without forgetting the fungi.

About the company

Microbiome Insights provides state-of-the art microbiome analysis and bioinformatics.

Our end-to-end service starts with experimental design and sample collection and extends to data analysis and bioinformatics interpretation.

Microbiome Insights is focused on providing our clients with a deeper understanding of functions and interactions of microbial communities across a range of human, animal, agricultural, and environmental research applications. Our team of experts and testing methods combine to provide fast, dependable, cost-effective results with highly comprehensive, publication quality bioinformatics. To learn more, see here.

New Microbiome Insights Technical Blog

Microbiome Insights is pleased to announce that our team is getting ready to launch our own technical blog on microbiome science. The blog, written by our in-house experts who are leaders in the field, will focus on different microbial workflows and protocols, as well as commonly asked questions from the market.

The aim of our new blog is twofold:

(1) To discuss issues in standardizing protocols across labs focused on microbiome research

and

(2) To share our perspective on technical issues we encounter in our own work

We look forward to sharing and learning about state-of-the-art methods in microbiome research.

Contact us if you have a question you’d like to see addressed on our technical blog: info@microbiomeinsights.com