Following 23andMe playbook, uBiome hires ex-Genentech scientist to lead R&D drive

UBiome is stepping up its R&D activities. The personal microbiome sequencing pioneer has lured ex-Genentech scientist Audrey Goddard away from Genomic Health ($GHDX) to head up the unit.

Goddard spent more than a decade at Genentech, working her way up to the position of associate director for companion diagnostics before jumping ship to Genomic Health, a cancer diagnostics company. At Genomic Health, Goddard rose to the position of VP of research, giving her responsibility for driving forward research into predictive biomarker assays. Now, after 20-plus years working on genomics and diagnostics, Goddard is shifting gears.

“Basic and clinical science have begun to recognize that one of the biggest drivers of both health and disease may come not from our bodies themselves but rather from the ecosystem of microorganisms that make up our microbiome,” Goddard said in a statement. “One exciting aspect of the microbiome is of course that, unlike the body, it is relatively easy to modify our bacteria.”

UBiome made its name as the company that enabled anyone to analyze their own microbiome. The sale of microbiome sampling kits remains the cornerstone of uBiome’s business, but, like 23andMe before it, the company has a growing interest in the research value of the data and testing experience it is accruing. With the appointment of Goddard as VP of research and development, uBiome has put someone well versed in the development of diagnostics at the top of its nascent R&D operation.

While Goddard is the first person to hold the title of VP of R&D at uBiome, the appointment is far from a sudden lurch into research. Over the past year, uBiome has steadily built up its scientific research credentials, bringing luminaries including George Church and Atul Butte on board as advisers and naming Dr. Alan Greene as its CMO. UBiome presented the appointment of Greene in December as the precursor to the introduction of a range of clinical tests.

The company has also struck some reputation-enhancing deals. Late last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention turned to uBiome for help with a study of hospital-associated infections that is sequencing 10,000 stool samples. And, more recently, a team at the University of Oxford signed up to work with uBiome on an investigation into links between the microbiome and personality.