Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

GWU Team Aims to Build Gut Microbiome Analysis Service


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A team of George Washington University researchers this month received a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help establish a gut microbiome analysis business based around a rapid metagenomic data algorithm developed at the school.

The six-month grant will primarily be used to develop a business strategy for the planned company, as well as to begin building a database of microbiome information, GWU's Krista Smith told GenomeWeb this week.

Amid a growing interest in the role of the gut microbiome in human health and disease, Smith and her colleagues are aiming to commercialize a technology created in the lab of GWU associate professor Raja Mazumder as a service — dubbed GutFeeling — for individuals interested in monitoring the microorganisms in their intestines for health purposes.

Called CensuScope, the technology is essentially a metagenome taxonomic profiling tool that randomly extracts a small number of reads and maps them to the National Center for Biotechnology Information's non-redundant nucleotide database.

According to a 2014 paper describing CensuScope, "this process is repeated multiple times to ascertain the taxonomic composition that is found in majority of the iterations."

Notably, CensuScope is far more rapid than other metagenomic data analysis tools, conducting analyses in less than 15 minutes versus hours or days, said GWU researcher Jung Hyun Yu, who is working with Smith and Mazumder on GutFeeling.

Smith, Mazumder, and Yu aim to develop a business in which the microbiomes in customer fecal samples are sequenced and analyzed using CensuScope. The findings will then be reported back to the customer.

Smith said that she and her collaborators are also looking to collect microbial abundance information from publicly available datasets and from data obtained from customers. As this database grows, it could potentially be used to evaluate customers' gut microbiomes so that dietary recommendations can be made.

To that end, the GWU team has been analyzing publicly available samples from the Human Microbiome Project, using the data to begin building the database, Smith said. The researchers are also hoping to recruit around 50 individuals over the next year to provide samples for analysis.

While the details about the target customer base are still being worked out, Smith said that initial clients are expected to be health-conscious individuals who are interested in tracking their microbiome as part of a wellness regimen.

"Eventually, we'd like to move into serious diseases," she added, noting that recent studies have linked the gut microbiome to conditions ranging from autoimmune diseases to food allergies to chronic stomach pain.

Yu said that GutFeeling is expected to roll out on a limited basis in 2016, with a broader commercial launch a few years after that.