Microbiome analysis company Bio-Me inks biomarker deal to boost major Norwegian health study


21 Jan 2019 --- Bio-Me, a start-up specializing in rapid gut microbiome analysis, has entered into an agreement with an unnamed “top” consumer healthcare company associated with the large-scale Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT). The HUNT 4 study is governed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and is reportedly one of the most extensive health studies ever performed. The partnership will see Bio-Me using its Precision Microbiome Profiling (PMP) platform and the HUNT BioBank to identify gut microbiome biomarkers for specific health conditions.

Based in Norway, Bio-Me has developed a PMP that “aims to transform what is possible in precision medicine and personalized nutrition.” The collaboration with HUNT, as well as other BioBanks worldwide, and Bio-Me’s extensive microbiome database, will seek  to enable drug discovery and companion diagnostics to improve health and well-being.

“We are delighted to sign this, our first well-funded commercial agreement with a major consumer healthcare company associated with the HUNT 4 Study. Our partner’s continued interest and support shows that our PMP platform can assist the Pharma and Food industry alike,” says Bio-Me CEO, Morten L. Isaksen. “Both industry and the scientific community needed a rapid, standardized discovery method for identifying important microbiome biomarkers and profiles. With PMP we can do in days what took months, allowing both communities to make life-changing discoveries,” she continues.

The Bio-Me PMP platform makes high-throughput quantification of multiple bacterial species and strains for hundreds of samples in less than a day. Bio-Me’s agreement with the HUNT Research Center gives the company access to both samples and health data from the 15,000 to 20,000 people contributing fecal samples to the ongoing HUNT 4 study. 

The combination of fecal samples from such a large cohort, extensive medical information about each subject and Bio-Me’s PMP platform will bring important new insights into the specific health conditions covered by this agreement.

Regarding health outcomes, many different health conditions are associated with the gut microbiome, meaning the effect of the microbiome on a set of different diseases can be studied, Isaksen tells NutritionInsight

By aligning public and private companies through partnerships such as this, better interventions and treatment options can be identified, such as diets and pro-and prebiotics, she notes.

“The decision HUNT took three years ago to include fecal sampling in the HUNT4 study was a strategic move made to stay up to date and to advance biobank precision medicine initiatives beyond genomics. We are thrilled to see this now manifested into concrete research activities,” says Christian Jonasson, Industry Coordinator at HUNT. 

“Our collaboration with Bio-Me is a good example of a successful public-private partnership as Bio-Me will perform all the analysis and return the data for free to HUNT databank enabling immediate access to academic researchers, while at the same time securing that Bio-Me has the proper commercial rights,” he adds.

The sustainability of the food chain can also benefit from microbiome knowledge. Last week, The Master Project, which aims to harness microbiome knowledge and DNA sequencing to boost food chain sustainability, received EU funding of nearly €11 million (US$12.7 million).  

The “ambitious” research project will be achieved over four years through the involvement of 31 leading European and international academic and industry teams. The project, launched in Ireland, is part of the Horizon 2020 program, which is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever with nearly €80 billion (US$91.2 billion) of funding available over seven years.

The benefit to society will be significant, Dr. Paul Cotter, Head of the Food Biosciences Department at Teagasc Food Research Centre, explains, and will improve the quantity, quality and safety of food across multiple food chains, including marine, plant, soil, rumen, meat, brewing, fruit and vegetable waste and fermented foods. 

“This will be achieved through mining microbiome data relating to the food chain, developing big data management tools to identify inter-relations between microbiomes across food chains, and generating close to market products and applications which promote sustainability, circularity and contribute to waste management and climate change mitigation,” he adds.

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