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.

At Understand Your Genome event, Microbiome Insights participates in latest discussions on genome sequencing for disease prediction and prevention

Microbiome Insights Inc. was an exhibitor and sponsor at the third annual Boston Understand Your Genome conference, held on Nov. 14, 2017. The all-day event centered on the progress and promise of genomic medicine and the issues regarding sequencing the genomes of healthy individuals for disease prediction and prevention.

The conference topics included sequencing and informatics in clinical care, precision health, and understanding the basics of genetics and genomics. Among the event’s speakers were Dr. Hannah Valantine, Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity at the National Institutes of Health, who discussed racial disparities in organ transplant outcomes and diversity issues in genomics; and Dr. Calum MacRae, Chief of Cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who spoke about the need for a robust global phenotype effort to replace the outdated diagnostic guidelines used today.

All conference participants were also offered the opportunity to have their genome sequenced and analyzed for genes and variants associated with adult-onset conditions, carrier status, and drug response.

At #ASHG17, Microbiome Insights offers a chance to win 50 complimentary samples for amplicon sequencing

OCTOBER 21, 2017 – The Microbiome Insights team travelled to Orlando on October 17th to 21st, 2017, to attend the American Society of Human Genetics 2017 meeting (ASHG 2017) as exhibitors. Visitors to the company booth could enter their card into a draw for complimentary amplicon sequencing of 50 samples, as they discussed with our team the benefits of combining genetics/genomics with microbiome analysis.

Dr. Athena Starlard-Davenport of the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center was the winner of the draw for free amplicon sequencing of 50 samples.

Microbiome Insights recognized in BCIC-New Ventures Competition: Growth shows demand for capitalizing on potential of microbiome

October 4, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – As researchers and companies around the world increasingly recognize the importance of the microbiome, they face a critical gap in expertise, according to one Vancouver biotechnology startup.

Microbiome Insights, Inc., which conducts testing and bioinformatics on microbial communities for applications ranging from human health and disease to beauty products and agriculture, aims to help their clients address this expertise gap and innovate more quickly.

Last week, Microbiome Insights’ growth and momentum was recognized with a second place win in the 2017 British Columbia Innovation Council-New Ventures Competition, out of a field of 166 companies. The company also took home the Centre for Drug Research and Development Life Sciences award.

“The microbiome is one of the fastest growing areas in life sciences,” says Malcolm Kendall, Microbiome Insights’ CEO. “Microbiome science is changing the direction of numerous large industries like healthcare, food, cosmetics and agriculture, and can add significant value to products. Our success in this competition highlights the bright future for microbiome testing and expertise.”

A panel of judges made up of industry experts, venture capitalists, and successful entrepreneurs determined that the company was primed to succeed as a business venture in the current market environment. The company is on a run rate to grow its revenue over 400 percent this year.

“A major theme in research today is a growing appreciation of the importance of microbial communities, or microbiomes, and the imperative to better understand these communities,” says University of British Columbia professor Dr. Bill Mohn, who co-founded the company with his colleague, Dr. Brett Finlay. “These highly complex communities are critical for human health, environmental quality and industrial processes.  Consequently, there is a real need for expertise in designing and conducting microbiome studies.”

Kendall adds, “Our testing services help researchers and companies innovate and accelerate the development of products so they can remain competitive as microbiome science advances and impacts their industry.”

Reports indicate advances in microbiome science offer tremendous potential for medical, environmental and economic benefits. Analysis of the human microbiome may yield new approaches to diagnose and treat many chronic diseases, while understanding and managing environmental microbiomes may improve productivity and sustainability of agriculture and diverse resource industries, such as forestry, mining and aquaculture.

About the BCIC-New Ventures Competition

New Ventures BC (NVBC) is a not-for-profit that promotes entrepreneurship through innovation. NVBC runs the annual BCIC-New Ventures Competition, offering education, coaching, and $300,000+ in prizes to B.C. startups. The NVBC Venture Acceleration programs also provide training and mentorship for early-stage tech companies. Over the past 17 years NVBC competition winners have gone on to create 2,700 jobs and raise $300 million in financing.

Learn more: newventuresbc.com

See this press release online here.

See the Microbiome Insights video here.

Microbiome Insights’ co-founders participate in Personalized Medicine Initiative webinar

MARCH 29, 2017 – Two of Microbiome Insights’ co-founders, CEO Malcolm Kendall and Dr. Bill Mohn, were key speakers this week in a webinar organized by British Columbia’s Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI). The webinar, open to participants across North America, focused on how microbiome research will contribute to personalized medicine as our knowledge advances.

“Microbiome Insights is proud to be part of a dynamic community working toward a more personalized approach to medical care, as the microbiome shows great promise for helping this field move forward,” says Kendall. The company, founded under the umbrella of the Personalized Medicine Initiative, enables both academic and industrial clients to seamlessly complete their microbiome research.

The PMI is a broad organization of personalized medicine stakeholders and resources in British Columbia; its mission is to introduce technologies enabling personalized (molecularly-based) medicine to the front lines of healthcare, facilitating a more efficient medical system. The PMI also serves as an educational and information resource for residents and medical practitioners. The organization is led by a Board of Directors that includes Pieter Cullis (Chair), David Huntsman, Bruce McManus, Martin Dawes and James Russell, with input from an Advisory Committee that represents a cross-section of interests relating to healthcare, science, technology, ethics, and health policy.

Microbiome Insights Tops BC’s 2017 Life Science Emerging Rocket List

MARCH 3, 2017 – After becoming one of nine companies included on the 2017 Life Science Emerging Rocket List in British Columbia, Microbiome Insights has been honoured with the program’s Ready to Rocket award in the Life Science division.

The award is part of the Ready to Rocket business recognition program in British Columbia’s tech sector, which showcases revenue growth leaders in the province.

Microbiome Insights Included on CB Insights’ List of 20+ Startups Attacking the Human Microbiome

DECEMBER, 2016 – Microbiome Insights, Inc. was recently included on a list of microbiome-focused startup companies assembled by the venture capital database CB Insights. The platform identified the most well-funded private companies targeting the microbiome and mapped them according to the category in which they operate. Microbiome Insights appeared in the “genomics” category as a company focused on microbiome analysis across a range of applications.

Microbiome Insights Establishes Scientific Advisory Board

September 23, 2015 – Microbiome Insights, Inc. is pleased to announce today the formation of its inaugural Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The board is comprised of leaders in the field whose work has led to significant breakthroughs in both basic and clinical understandings of the microbiome.

The inaugural members are:

  • Ken Croitoru, MD, gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. His research focuses on the fundamental mechanisms underlying intestinal inflammation, particularly as it relates to inflammatory bowel disease. He is the project leader of the GEM Project, a study that explores the genetic, environmental, and microbial factors that lead to Crohn’s disease.
  • Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, Associate Professor of computation biology and bioinformatics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research leverages computational methods, including machine learning, to investigate microbial community function and human health. He and his lab have worked extensively on the NIH Human Microbiome Project.
  • Janet Jansson, PhD, Division Director of Biological Sciences at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. She has over 30 years’ experience in microbial ecology with specific expertise in the use of molecular approaches to study complex microbial communities in the environment and human gut.
  • Samuel Miller, MD, Professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology, and genome sciences at the University of Washington. His research focuses on how bacteria cause disease and interact with host cells. He is also Director of the NIAID Northwest Research Center for Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The board, whose mission is to provide scientific, strategic, and technical guidance for Microbiome Insights’ service business and other projects, is co-chaired by founders Brett Finlay, PhD, and Bill Mohn, PhD.

“We are thrilled to have assembled this world class team to guide us,” said Malcolm Kendall, CEO of Microbiome Insights. “This Scientific Advisory Board draws upon the best and brightest in microbial ecology, bioinformatics and medicine, and their collective breadth and depth of experience will be crucial to all aspects of our business.”

Microbiome Insights, Inc. is a Vancouver-based company that provides state-of-the-art testing and analysis of the microbiome—the complex communities of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit humans, animals, plants, and the environment. It provides end-to-end service for researchers in academia and industry who wish to incorporate microbiome research in their studies across a range of human, animal, agricultural, and environmental applications.

Microbiome Insights Officially Incorporates

February 12, 2015 – Microbiome Insights, Inc. announced its official incorporation today as a company providing end-to-end services in microbiome analysis. These services, which include experimental design, sample testing, and bioinformatic analysis, are aimed at researchers in both academia and industry seeking to conduct microbiome studies.

Based out of Vancouver, Canada, Microbiome Insights is a spinout from both the Life Science Institute and the Personalized Medicine Initiative at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Drawing on the decades of experience of its scientific co-founders, professors Dr. B. Brett Finlay and Dr. Bill Mohn, Microbiome Insights fills the expertise gap that currently exists between expanding interest in the field and successful studies and products.

The study of microbiomes—complex ecosystems of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and fungi—is one of the fastest growing areas in life sciences research. The functions and interactions of these communities have a profound impact on human, animal, and environmental health. While more and more groups are recognizing the value of adding microbiome analyses to their work, many lack the technical know-how to design and carry out such studies and interpret the results.

“Our goal is to provide researchers with a resource for expert microbiome analysis,” says Malcolm Kendall, co-founder and CEO. “Along with my fellow founders, Brett Finlay and Bill Mohn, I feel the company is uniquely positioned to offer highly specialized services to a broad market, helping drive innovation.”

Microbiome Insights’ services centre on extraction, quality control, analytics and bioinformatics—providing clients with publication-quality data and state-of-the-art analysis. The company’s flexible end-to-end service model also includes pre-study consultation, data consultation, and advanced reporting.

Microbiome Insights will seek partnerships with other organizations to further understandings of microbial communities and to co-develop new products and services.