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Microbial Genomics Firm uBiome Lays Off 55 Employees

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Microbial genomics company uBiome has laid off 55 of its 300 employees in a move to focus resources on developing therapeutics and establishing relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

In an interview with CNBC yesterday, uBiome CEO Jessica Richman and CFO Joel Jung said that the firm has axed 30 jobs in the US and 25 jobs from its international operations. A company spokeswoman, who confirmed the numbers for GenomeWeb, added that the layoffs were part of uBiome's 2019 planning process. "This financial realignment will support us in moving forward with additional laboratory tests, developing novel therapeutics and collaborations with pharma, establishing partnerships with retailers and other members of industry, and fostering new relationships with insurers," she noted.

Indeed, the company announced today that it awarded a microbiome research support grant to a team at the University of the West Indies to study the emergence of histamine-secreting gut microbiota as a factor in childhood asthma. The goal of the study is to quantify any differences in histamine-secreting gut microbiota and dysbiosis of gut microbes between asthmatic and non-asthmatic children living in Trinidad, in the hopes of laying the foundation for further research on how alteration of the gut microbiome might affect asthma and possibly providing new therapies for the condition.

In 2017, uBiome also announced that it had partnered with Stanford to study the genome and the microbiome of individuals at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and launched the SmartJane self-collection, sequencing-based lab-developed test for human papillomavirus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and Mycoplasma genitalium.

Further, the company recently raised $83 million in a Series C financing round, which it said it would use at least in part to expand into drug R&D using pre-existing patent assets and industry research and to start commercialization of biopharmaceutical molecules and live biotherapeutics.