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Crowdfunded Microbiome Project Raises $340K in First Phase

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A national research consortium seeking to characterize the microbiomes from ordinary people and make that data publicly available has raised $340,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign.

The American Gut Project, which will sequence the microbiota from gut, oral, nasal, and skin samples provided by contributors, is raising money largely from the participants who donate the samples.

The $340,000 in Phase I funding was raised by around 2,000 funders, and it will sequence gut bacteria from roughly 3,500 people, Rob Knight, a co-leader on the project and an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said on Tuesday.

The study, which is part of the Human Food Project, also is raising funds through partnerships with industry, including Second Genome, MoBio, and Eppendorf.

The Human Food Project is aimed at understanding modern diseases within the context of humans' ancestral and microbial past, including the coevolution of humans and the microbes within their bodies.

The American Gut Project is now launching its second phase, during which it seeks to enroll a total of 10,000 people who will contribute their DNA for sequencing and analysis.

The project seeks to continue to build upon the data produced by the Human Microbiome Project, and is using an open source model that enables participants to access the data to study how diet and lifestyle behaviors may interact with human microbiomes, cells, and genes, according to Knight.

“By looking at samples from the general public, we can get a far better sense of what a ‘normal’ microbiome is and what factors have the largest effects," Knight said in a statement.

“The large number of participants in American Gut, coupled with our ongoing work in Africa and South America, will allow us to explore the impact of diet and lifestyle between western and more traditional societies,” added Jeff Leach, co-leader of the American Gut project and founder of the Human Food Project. “We may find that our modern gut microbiome has shifted significantly away from our ancestral one, but reinstating some of that primal balance may be within our grasp."

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported recently, a similar project called uBiome is raising funding from participants who provide samples. That effort aims to sequence the microbiomes of 1,000 people.

According to the uBiome website, it has now raised $268,000, far above its initial goal of $100,000.