Less than two months after raising $800,000 in a seed financing round, University of Minnesota spinoff CoreBiome Inc. officially announced its launch as a new player in the burgeoning field of microbiome-related research and development.
The firm’s CEO is Dan Knights, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering in the U’s College of Science and Engineering who has attracted attention as an entrepreneurial innovator. Knights also holds a faculty position with the university’s BioTechnology Institute.
CoreBiome’s other cofounders include Kenneth Beckman, director of the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, and colleague Daryl Gohl, its research and development chief. It is based out of the University Enterprise Laboratories collaborative research center in St. Paul.
The trio have developed a business concept built from their U of M research, in which they have developed patent-pending artificial intelligence tools enabling “an unprecedented level of control, reproducibility and accuracy in providing detailed information about microbial communities (microbiomes).”
CoreBiome’s official launch was announced in late August shortly after the startup revealed it raised $800,000 in seed funding led by the angel investment group Gopher Angels, the U of M’s Discovery Capital fund and St. Cloud-based Microbiologics Inc. The round also included several private investors.
The researchers, acting as entrepreneurs, licensed their own technology from the U in June. These proprietary tools and techniques, they said, will allow CoreBiome to act as a unique provider of microbiome profiling services for several types of industries.
The human microbiome is comprised of billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms living in the digestive system, functioning mainly to break down food and create waste. Long dismissed as not having any practical medical value, scientists have since discovered the microbiome is connected to many health conditions and may present a potent new avenue for the treatment of various disorders.
For example, research by Knights is looking at how the makeup of the microbiome can be used to predict whether cancer patients will be susceptible to sepsis due to chemotherapy. There are currently no good ways to predict which chemo patients will acquire the bloodstream infection, but studies in Knights’ lab, using machine learning tools, has resulted in the creation of an algorithm that promises to help.
The algorithm can “learn” which bacteria are good and bad vis-a-vis the risk of sepsis from studying one set of patients, then predicting with around 85-percent accuracy whether a new patient it has not yet seen will get an infection. Knights’ research found that patients who contracted infections had significantly different mixtures of gut bacteria than those who did not.
But CoreBiome’s machine-learning tools will not be restricted to human health uses, according to a statement issued by the company – they will also be extended to include agricultural and environmental applications.
“Microbiome research is leading to new opportunities that range from treating antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections to removing toxins from contaminated water,” the statement said.
“Through its scientific expertise and analysis, CoreBiome will provide crucial information and efficiency for industries engaged in these areas of microbiome-related research and development, helping them to accelerate discovery and better leverage the potential of microbiome science in a variety of fields.”