Good Bugs v. Bad Bugs: New breakthroughs in Microbiome Technology
San Diego, Calif., September 20, 2017 - The second in a series on disruptive technology, Good Bugs v. Bad Bugs was put on by the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego on September 20, 2017 at Knobbe Martens in San Diego, and featured Rob Knight, professor of pediatrics and computer science and engineering and director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, Richard Gallo, MD, Ph.D., chair of the department of dermatology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Mark S. Wilson, co-founder and CEO of MatriSys Bioscience, Inc.
Recent scientific advances have highlighted the importance of the microbiome in human health and disease. The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms on your skin and in your body. Not all microbiomes are good – but most are. Skin diseases like eczema arrive when the balance goes awry, and they’re banished when the balance is restored. This natural rebalance of the skin is a dramatic improvement over antibacterial therapy that kills not only pathogenic bacteria, but also destroys the normal skin flora by friendly fire.
Knight opened the program by asking attendees, “What did you see when you looked in the mirror this morning?” Each of us, he continued, has 20,000 human genes, but the size of our microbial gene catalog is 2-20 million genes. “You are in fact, only 1% you.”
You’re stuck with your human genes, Knight says. You’ve had them since birth – but there’s good news! The composition of your microbiome changes on a daily basis, and scientists are discovering how to manipulate them to improve the human condition.
Knight took attendees through a history of breakthroughs in microbiome research:
- 2007 – First sequencing run and kickoff of The Human Microbiome Project
- 2008 – First map of the microbes in the human body
- 2010 – Microbiome linked to obesity
- 2017 – Microbiome linked to many more diseases, such as Parkinson's Disease, Autism, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis
He added another: “There's one figure in Darwin's Origin of Species, and it led to the way we understand microbial diversity.”
The figure on p.502 of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”.
Knight and his team are working to develop a high-throughput method to prove causality among microbes – which bacteria do what? And for that, the skin is a scientist’s playground.
The Skin Microbiome
Gallo followed Knight with a discussion of the function of the microbiome in skin diseases.
“I believe hair follicles are present to entrap and protect microbes from the outside world,” Gallo began.
Gallo pointed out that our skin produces natural antimicrobials that keep the community of microbes that can live on skin in balance. Those microbes in turn, produce their own chemicals that inhibit the growth of others. He proposed the question, “Can we exploit the ability of skin-resident microbes to inhibit pathogen growth?”
The answer? It would seem so. Gallo cited examples of work done in his own lab that demonstrated the effectiveness of a “skin microbiome transplant” in patients with eczema.
Finally, Mark Wilson, Co-founder and CEO of MatriSys Bioscience, Inc., a clinical stage company focused on commercializing therapeutics at the interface of the innate immune system and the human skin microbiome, spoke to how he obtained an exclusive license from UC San Diego for a microbiome-based therapy for the world’s top five skin diseases and uses the technology to open up opportunities to the $12.9B dermatology pharmaceutical market and the $121B cosmetics/skin care market.
“More than 230 million people suffer from one of the top five skin diseases, which include Atopic Dermatitis (or eczema), Rosacea, Psoriasis and skin infection,” said Wilson. MatriSys Bio is in the process of commercializing a product that will shift the diversity of the skin microbiome in these diseases toward a healthier state.
So what’s the future of microbiome research? “A microbial GPS,” says Knight. “Imagine a mirror that when you look into it projects a map of your microbes and the chemicals they produce, along with recommendations for how to steer your microbiome toward a healthier state.”
About the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego
The MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego creates education and networking programs, building a community for business leaders, technologists, entrepreneurs, capital and service providers. The MIT Enterprise Forum is open to everyone in the San Diego business community. We are a chapter of the global MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF), a 501c3 headquartered in Cambridge, MA. Founded in 1978 as part of the MIT Alumni Association, the global MIT Enterprise Forum produces 400+ events, activities, and workshops annually to inform, connect, coach and inspire technology entrepreneurs, business leaders and enthusiasts. More information about our global reach can be found at www.mitef.org.
About the UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation
The objective of the Center for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) is to accelerate microbiome research and understanding, through partnerships with industry sponsors. Together we will develop novel tools and methods to improve human health and benefit the environment by analyzing and manipulating microbiomes — the distinct and diverse communities of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that live within and around us. This is a multidisciplinary center with access to all the latest omics tools (genomics, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metabolomics, mutiplex proteomics), processing hundreds of thousands of samples each year and analyzing and collecting data for some of the largest microbiome cohorts in the world. Applications range from human disease understanding, ag bio, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, environmental research, to consumer goods.
Center for Microbiome Innovation