uBiome has launched the first citizen science project to sequence and map the human microbiome. The San Francisco–based biotech startup, currently being incubated at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), is funding the project exclusively through the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo.com. People can pledge $69 to have their gut microbiome analyzed by high-throughput DNA sequencing technology, or donate larger amounts for multiple or repeat samples, to catalog their own microbes and see how lifestyle changes alter their microbial composition. The company sequences 16S ribosomal genes present in bacterial DNA to classify the microbial populations. “People pay us for the kits and also for access to the resulting data,” says uBiome CEO and co-founder Jessica Richman. “We tell them what's in their gut and how they compare to others in our sample set and existing studies. As citizen scientists, they can also pose and answer questions of their data set.” The microbial ecosystem colonizing humans is vast—the gut alone contains approximately 100 trillion bacteria. These gut microbiota play multiple roles in maintaining health, and their species composition changes in response to diet and drugs, and in conditions such as obesity and irritable bowel syndrome (Nature 488, 178, 2012). Since launching in mid-November, uBiome has raised over $120,000, from more than 1,000 funders, towards its initial goal of sequencing the microbiomes of 1,000 people.
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Costandi, M. Citizen microbiome. Nat Biotechnol 31, 90 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0213-90a
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