It all begins in the gut. We know that a balanced gut microbiome is key to a healthy (and happy) life. Probiotics, ingestible products that contain healthy bacteria and yeast, are available for people to buy and help with their digestive issues. But not all probiotics are created equal.
Sun Genomics found that an individual’s genome can help identify which probiotic strains are best for the person. By creating personalized probiotics, the company can eliminate the guesswork that’s involved with buying probiotics off the shelf and help people regain control of their health. We asked Sunny Jain, the company’s founder and CEO, more about their personalized probiotics:
How did you become interested in the gut microbiome?
SJ: I’ve studied Microbiology for a decade now and have always had interest in gut health. However, the real turning point was in early 2016. My son was suffering from a dysbiosis and when I went to the local grocery store to pick up a probiotic, I was faced with the realization that the consumer products on the shelf were utterly confusing. I had no idea what to choose between CFUs, strains, and the refrigerated section. So instead of picking up one probiotic, I grabbed tons off the shelf and began testing them in the lab. My concerns were validated when the store-bought probiotics did not contain the strains listed on the bottle and failed to survive the gastric system. At that point, I custom formulated a probiotic for my son, alleviating his gut health issue. I realized that targeted probiotics were 8 times more specific and I could ensure they worked.
When did you decide to start a company, and where did your team get together?
SJ: I began the company by myself in 2016, but once I realized that I had an affordable solution for the world’s health issues, I began hiring key members of my team. We came together in a relatively auspicious way. For example, I connected with our bioinformatics hire, Thibaut Montagne, when he began following Sun Genomics’ Twitter Account. We began building the team rapidly after Thibaut and all the pieces began to fall into place.
How does your technology work?
SJ: Sun Genomics uses next generation whole genome sequencing and a patented bioinformatics and data platform to process and analyze the DNA of its customers’ gut microbiome. We leverage existing data compiled by the Human Microbiome Project and American Gut Project and integrate that information into our existing technology. Our vast database of over 100,000 genomes allows our team of microbiome scientists to make calls related to not only bacterial strains but fungi, parasites, and viruses found in the gut microbiome, thereby allowing us to create custom probiotics for the end user.
What lessons did you learn transitioning from science to entrepreneurship at IndieBio?
SJ: IndieBio and its team challenged us to think bigger and innovate quicker. In order for me to share my findings with the world, I was going to have to move from just being a laboratorian to a entrepreneur. During our four months at IndieBio we experienced more growth than over the previous 14 months as a company. We developed and filed additional intellectual property, grew our customer base by 1000%, and hired several key employees to assist us with our growth.
How do you think your success as a company would change the healthcare industry?
SJ: At Sun Genomics we believe, as did Hippocrates, that “All Disease Begins in the Gut.” Billions of people worldwide suffer from disease states and chronic conditions that both Eastern and Western medicine have been unable to diagnose and treat. We believe the gut microbiome holds the key to alleviating some of these conditions including; arthritis, Chron’s, lupus, diabetes, IBD, IBS, colitis, obesity, and perhaps even certain types of cancers. As a microbiome health company, our vision is to not find really expensive solutions for only a few, but affordable solutions for billions of people.
What milestones are you aiming to hit in the near future?
SJ: Sun Genomics is experiencing unprecedented customer growth and soon will announce additional partnerships, publications, and commercialization milestones. We are well on our way to analyzing 10,000 microbiome profiles and becoming a leading contributor to microbiome science. We have developed core technology that is beyond probiotics. Come hear about our newest innovation at IndieBio Demo day on April 17th.