More Microbiome Secrets

A new revolution is about to start - get in on the ground floor!

Well, it’s been a few months since the last posting on the huge unmet clinical need for microbiome analytics. And the market map still looks roughly the same.

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The genomic revolution has been happening for 15+ years. Nowadays, genomics is prevalent in almost all major areas of biological science. However, we are still in the early days of the microbiome revolution. Innovation fuels commercial activity, and innovation will be exploding in the area of microbiomics over the next 2-3 years.

Home run potential in many market segments

There are already a few prominent examples of scientific research demonstrating the important role that the microbiome, and disruption of it, plays in disease pathogenesis. If we were to segment the diseases where there is home-run potential for microbiome innovation, one way to do so would be the following:

  1. immune-mediated diseases - autoimmune diseases such as lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), psoriatic arthritis, HIV/AIDS
  2. metabolic diseases - diseases related to energy production and metabolism of compounds; examples include diabetes, metabolic syndrome, mitochondrial diseases, lysosomal storage disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  3. cancer - not just for preventative care, but also for improved recovery and quality of life
  4. mental health and neurodegenerative disease - We already know about some associations, for example the link of Autism to gastrointestinal distress. There’s also a potential association with Alzheimer’s, which is probably the single neurodegenerative disease that could potentially bankrupt the American economy (over 30-40% of adults over age 85 will have dementia).

Note that these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive (e.g., obviously, immunology plays a role in every disease). Also, there are likely to be many home runs in microbiome-related therapeutics for these segments of disease. Additional use cases could include situations like recovery from trauma (e.g., anything ranging from bruises to severe burns and fractures).

I expect most of the innovation on the therapeutic front will be fueled by data-driven solutions. Companies analogous to those that do this for traditional drugs discovery (Compugen, Schroedinger, Recrusion Pharma, etc.) will continue to pop up, except now with a focus on the microbiome.

Pay attention to the innovation landscape

Of course, you should always pay attention to what is happening in the innovation landscape from the academic side. Prominent researchers are uncovering either secrets of the microbiome in disease pathogenesis, or are witnessing positive effects of microbiome modulation for the control of disease progression.

In antiphospholipid syndrome, animal studies have shown that killing off certain gut bacteria leads to an improved disease profile (see video):

alt text Kriegel M, 2015. talk at Lupus Research Institute / Alliance for Lupus Research Conference. 2015.

In another recent study, researchers at the Weizmann Institute found that glycemic responses differ between individuals based upon their microbiome composition. (see video):

alt textZeevi & Korem et al., Cell 2015

This work has huge implications for the future of innovation in treating metabolic conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and others.

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