uBiome grabs $83M, new digs and Joe Jimenez as it expands into therapeutics

uBiome markets sequencing-based tests that can catalogue a person’s gut microbiome or serve as a women’s health screen. Now, the company is moving into therapeutics, armed with $83 million in new funding, a new site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a new board member: former Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez.

The San Francisco-based company wants to put its microbiome chops to use in drug discovery, development and commercialization, it said in a statement. The Cambridge location will serve as its therapeutics headquarters.

“uBiome has built the world’s largest microbiome database and a strong patent portfolio, which offers a tremendous opportunity to apply these insights into the development of new therapeutics for a wide range of diseases,” Jimenez said in a statement.

uBiome's current offerings include Explorer, a consumer test that the company says helps people understand the role that food and lifestyle can play in gut wellness, as well as a pair of physician-ordered tests. SmartGut is a stool test that identifies the gut microbes of patients with chronic GI conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, while SmartJane is a women’s health test that detects four STIs, genotypes 19 strains of HPV and measures more than 20 types of vaginal microbes.

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OS Fund led the $83 million series C, while Y Combinator, 8VC and Dentsu Ventures also participated. The new capital will support uBiome’s efforts to move into drug R&D.

“This is the next step in the evolution of uBiome,” said uBiome CEO Jessica Richman, Ph.D. “We started with a simple wellness product to help people understand their microbiomes, expanded to clinical laboratory testing in 2015, and are now poised for expansion. This financing allows us to expand our product portfolio, increase our focus on patent assets, and further raise our clinical profile, especially as we begin to focus on commercialization of drug discovery and development of our patent assets.”

UBiome’s R&D efforts will lean on its microbiome database, its patent assets and research deals with other players in the industry—the company will not sell customer data to expand into therapeutics, Richman said. The new funding will also ramp up the commercialization of uBiome’s trio of tests, as well as tests, including companion diagnostics, that it will bring to market in the future. Finally, it will bankroll the commercialization of “biopharma molecules and live biotherapeutics.”

“Since uBiome’s founding in 2012, we have gained incredible insights into the human microbiome through successful commercialization of our existing products, SmartGut, SmartJane, and Explorer, as well as new products under development,” Richman said. “Using proprietary machine learning and other computational techniques, we have mined our database to discover new therapeutic targets, with an initial focus on oncology, autoimmune disorders, obesity, and metabolic disorders. Our expansion into therapeutics does not involve sale of customer data, but rather a focus on intellectual property derived from our deep microbiome database.”