Monday, December 9, 2013

I recently learned of a fascinating non-profit start-up based at MIT called OpenBiome. The lead organizers are Mark Smith, a bio-science Ph.D. candidate and James Burgess, an MBA candidate.  The topic? Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT), which is now recognized as an effective cure for C. difficile patients.  In fact, its about 90% effective in patients that have failed three or more rounds of antibiotics.

Despite the potential, FMT has been slow to take off, largely because not many people want blenders of poo floating around their facility. Clinicians that do perform FMT spend hours doing consults with donors, sending samples out for screening, interpreting results and preparing material. FMT takes 20 minutes, but the related work takes 2 hours. This is not a good use of their time.

OpenBiome addresses this problem by centralizing the entire process into a universal donor bank, offering clinicians frozen, pre-screened, ready-to-administer microbiota preparations for use in FMT. The four-part goal is described in their website: Create a safe, standardized, reliable product; improve convenience; expand access; build a platform for open-source science.

Here's the quick summary:

OpenBiome supports clinicians in the emerging field of fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT).  We offer carefully screened, frozen stool samples for use in clinical research. By taking care of the logistical and regulatory burden of supplying material for FMTs, including FDA compliance, we hope to open the FMT field to a broader pool of clinicians, accelerating progress in this exciting area and treating patients in need.

The folks at OpenBiome will face some interesting and challenging business development issues over the coming months, but their concept is sound and has the potential to bring great value to society.  Keep an eye on this one!


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