Bankrupt microbiome startup uBiome to liquidate assets, shutter operations

Floundering uBiome will cease its operations entirely and liquidate what remains of its business, the company announced, as it filed a request to convert its current Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to Chapter 7.

The news comes just one year after the San Francisco microbiome-testing startup, once worth $600 million, pitched a dramatic shift into therapeutics R&D—raising $83 million in venture capital, moving into new lab and office space in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and signing big names onto its drug research plans, including Y Combinator, OS Fund and former Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez as a board member.

That all unraveled over the past 12 months. The FBI raided the company’s headquarters in April in a probe of its billing practices for home-based tests. Shortly after, the company’s pair of founders and co-CEO stepped down, going on administrative leave before departing entirely. They were followed out the door by its general counsel and interim CEO, before a corporate consulting and restructuring firm took over stewardship.

More recently, uBiome laid off half of its international staff, including lab managers which put its testing activities on hold. Ultimately, it became known that the underpinnings of the company’s flagship microbiome test had been tainted from the beginning—with data from minors, infants and at least one animal present in its analysis of collected fecal samples.

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Though investigations by the Department of Justice and SEC are still ongoing, uBiome had hoped to find a buyer after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early last month. It had also hoped to stock the shelves of CVS stores with a new version of its at-home, Explorer microbiome consumer test, but the pharmacy chain turned them down. Earlier this week, Business Insider reported that uBiome lost the laboratory certifications required to run clinical tests.

A bankruptcy court hearing for uBiome’s Chapter 7 conversion request has not yet been scheduled, according to the company, which said that if approved the liquidation would be overseen by a court-appointed trustee.