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uBiome

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uBiome, Inc.
Private
Industry Biotechnology
Founded 2012 October
Founder Zachary Apte, Jessica Richman
Headquarters San Francisco, California, United States
Website www.ubiome.com

uBiome is a biotechnology company based in San Francisco that gives individuals and organizations access to sequencing technology to sequence their microbiomes with a sampling kit and website. Originally based in The California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, the company received money from Y Combinator[1] and Andreesen Horowitz.[2]

Founding

The company was founded by Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte.[3] In November 2012, uBiome generated $350,000 through a crowdfunding campaign[4] and as of 2015, uBiome had raised a total of more than $6 million but had not achieved profitability.[5]

Products and Services

Customers purchase kits to sample one or more parts of their body, including the anus, genitals, mouth, nose, or skin. After swabbing, a participant take a survey to provide additional context to uBiome.[5] uBiome has not been approved by the FDA, meaning the company is not permitted to provide diagnostic information based on the results of customer tests.[6]

Controversy

uBiome has received mixed reviews from the scientific community. The Wall Street Journal noted concerns that citizen science initiatives like uBiome may attract participants who do not understand the medical significance of their test results, since uBiome and its peer companies do not provide access to physicians or other experts who can explain how results uniquely affect an individual.[7] A Scientific American blog criticized company founders Zachary Apte and Jessica Richman on the grounds that they "weren’t very upfront about how they address ethical issues since they were working with human subjects."[8] Judy Stone called further attention to the company in a piece for Scientific American, calling uBiome CEO Jessica Richman "a great saleswoman who also excels at sounding innocent and playing the misunderstood victim in the ethical controversy surrounding her company."[3] In response to the controversy, Amy Dockset Marcus wrote an essay on the Wall Street Journal's website[9] arguing that IRBs belonged to the “Old World of scientific inquiry and didn’t address the unique challenges of citizen science.” Responding to criticism in a post to a Scientific American blog, uBiome claimed it had received IRB approval from a private company, E&I Services.[10]

References

  1. ^ Chokkattu, Julian. "uBiome Raises $4.5M From Angel Investors, Andreessen Horowitz To Crowdsource Microbiome Research". TechCrunch. 
  2. ^ Dillet, Romain. "Andreessen Horowitz Raises Massive New $1.5 Billion Fund". TechCrunch. 
  3. ^ a b Stone, Judy. "uBiome: Ethical Lapse or Not?". Scientific American. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai. "Andreessen-Backed uBiome Is Now Doing An Indiegogo Campaign To Check Out Dental Bacteria". TechCrunch. 
  5. ^ a b Gertner, Jon. "WHAT'S LURKING IN YOUR MICROBIOME? POSSIBLY, A CURE FOR DISEASE". Fast Company. 
  6. ^ Khamsi, Roxanne (17 July 2014). "Can Gut DNA Sequencing Actually Tell You Anything About Your Health?". Newsweek. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Ethics of Experimenting on Yourself". Wall Street Journal. 
  8. ^ "On Ethics and Self-Policing in (Citizen) Science". The Urban Scientist (Scientific American). Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Markus, Amy Dockser. "The Ethics of Experimenting on Yourself". Wall Street Journal. 
  10. ^ "Crowdfunding and IRBs: The Case of uBiome". Scientific American. 

External links