The Human Microbiome: A New Frontier in Drug Discovery

Published Summer 2016

Lee Jones, CEO, Rebiotix Inc.

Human Microbiome New Frontier in Drug Discovery

Download this white paper (4.2 MB)

There is a new phenomenon sweeping the globe (or at least sweeping the imagination of people around the globe). It is the human gut microbiome and the role it may play in the future of human health.

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Recent reports have indicated that the human gut microbiome may be implicated in a whole variety of health conditions such as metabolism, obesity, diabetes, immunity and autism. If you can name it there has probably been something written about the condition and gut microbiome. One thing is for certain and that is that the gut microbiome has a role in protecting the human host from disease1.

I too caught the bug (pun intended) as I first learned about the gut microbiome when I heard about faecal transplants. I became fascinated with how the microbes in faecal material could be used to solve an unmet medical need: people who had experienced multiple recurrences of a nasty gastrointestinal disease called Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) and who had no good alternatives. At the time, I did not know exactly what CDI was, but it sounded bad and seemed to be something that needed to be solved. I learned that the number of people getting the disease was growing and that it was harder to treat with existing antibiotics. It dawned on me, as I learned more, that my own family had fallen victim to this disease multiple times, and here, right before me, was a potential cure that had been demonstrated to work. I remember thinking that I might just be witnessing the dawn of a new era where the use of the human microbiome could revolutionise the way medicine would be practised in the future.

That was in 2011. At the time, one could find very little, if any, mainstream information about the human microbiome. Contrast that to today where in May 2016 the White House announced the National Microbiome Initiative with $121 million in Federal and $400 million in private funds to promote the study and use of the microbiome. This timeline from obscurity to the spotlight for a technical initiative is like stomping on the gas in a sports car and going from 0-160 mph in two seconds.