What is the Microbiome?

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The human body is inhabited by trillions of microscopic organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea. Although they’re too small to see with the naked eye, microbes inhabit almost every part of the human body, including on our skin, up our nose and inside our gut. Collectively this is what scientists call our Microbiome.
The majority of these minuscule creatures live in our gastrointestinal tract, especially our large intestine. But rather than being passengers hitching a ride, this complex ecosystem of gut wildlife is more like a co-pilot.
We now know our gut microbial ecosystem may play a crucial role in our health and wellbeing. This includes communicating with our immune system, maintaining a healthy gut mucosal barrier, and producing critical metabolites needed for normal metabolism including neurotransmission. Humans need microbes to stay healthy, and microbes need the environments provided by the human body to survive. Until very recently it’s been challenging to study the microorganisms inhabiting our gut. However, new technologies have enabled scientists to isolate these novel bacteria and analyse their DNA. This is revealing hidden secrets of the microscopic world and uncovering new insights into how it influences our health and wellbeing. The microbiome has over 100x more genes than the human genome and this complexity highlights the microbiome as a complex and malleable organ that could play as powerful a role as genetics, lifestyle, and the environment in determining our health.
This new understanding has paved the way for breakthroughs in the discovery and development of microbiome-based therapies, a new way type of therapy to treat chronic disease.

The more that I've been involved in research in the area, as well as clinical trials and treating patients, the more I've learned about the potential… and also the gravity of the problem associated with loss of gut microbes.

A Thriving Ecosystem

Think of your microbiome as being an ecosystem. Just like a rain forest bursting with thousands of plant species, birds, and mammals, it’s estimated that approximately 500 to 1,000 different species of bugs are battling it out for survival in the human gut. And just like plants and animals in a forest, microbial communities all have critical roles to play. They compete for space and resources in order to grow and reproduce. Maintaining a diverse and stable population of gut microbes is essential to our health. Disruptions to our gut microbiome called dysbiosis is linked to a range of chronic diseases.
It’s now widely understood that our modern lifestyles, including the food we eat and our widespread use of antibiotics are disrupting the balance of our gut microbiome, thus increasing our susceptibility to a variety of diseases.

Treatments of the Future

The priority for microbiome therapeutics companies is learning how different microbial species influence our health. The goal is to develop targeted therapies that restore lost microbial function to treat microbiome-mediated chronic disease.

First Generation Treatments

BiomeBank is pioneering microbiome-based therapies which restore lost gut microbial ecology to treat and prevent chronic disease to help patients with unmet medical need.

For example, studies have demonstrated feacal microbiota transplantation (FMT) can effectively treat clostridioides difficile (C.difficile), a life threatening infection with cure rates of 81% – 96%. This procedure involves transplanting the gut microbial ecology from a healthy donor into the gut of a patient with chronic disease.

Microbiome-based therapies are currently being studied as a treatment for other inflammatory diseases such as Ulcerative Colitis. In a randomised clinical trial published in JAMA, BiomeBank’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Samuel Costello and his team demonstrated that FMT can induce clinical remission in patients with mild to moderate Ulcerative Colitis. A recent study in Lancet further demonstrated the role of microbiome-based therapies in treating Ulcerative Colitis (Haifer et al. 2022 Lancet).

The microbial ecology used to manufacture microbiome-based therapies can only be harvested from healthy human stool donors who have undergone a rigorous quality controlled screening and donation process. Microbiome-based therapies such as FMT are generally performed using colonoscopy. However, BiomeBank is provide a microbiome-based therapy in capsules. Promising research demonstrates the efficacy of delivering FMT via freeze-dried, oral capsules, which is significantly more cost-effective, less time-consuming and easier to scale-up for widespread clinical use.

WATCH BiomeBank’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Samuel Costello talk about his experiences of using Microbial Therapies with patients.

Second Generation Treatments

BiomeBank is developing second generation microbiome-based therapies that replicate the bacterial complexity seen in FMT while also containing target bacterial strains which carry important function for treating disease. This next generation microbiome-based therapy will be manufactured in bioreactors, freeze-dried, and encapsulated for global distribution. This is made possible by BiomeBank’s Consortiome Technology.

BiomeBank is currently developing second generation microbiome-based therapies for the treatment of recurrent C.difficile infection and ulcerative colitis.

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