[MUSIC PLAYING] I'm here at the Executive Performance Summit sponsored by TD Wealth, and one of the topics that was tackled today was your gut. That is, the bacteria in your gut-- and quite frankly, all over you-- and how it impacts your health. And it has a huge influence. Jessica Richman is the co-founder of a company called uBiome, which has gathered a whole lot of data from citizen scientists all over the world. Fantastic conversation. Here's a little peek into what we talked about. So let's start with the company. You founded uBiome. There's a whole bunch of things collapsed here I think we need to unpack to understand. Citizen science is kind of what helped bring uBiome to life. But also, what you're studying. You know, bacteria, the macro biota, if I'm getting it right, this is new to people, too. So let's start with just citizen science. What does uBiome do? And how did it come about? Yeah. So uBiome started in kind of a crazy way for a biotech company. We started with a crowdfunding campaign. So we put a campaign on Indiegogo on the internet. We had a video that was kind of a pledge or a hope that people would join us and learn more about their bacteria and help us build this big data set. And we were able to gather more data-- more data than the NIH had at the time. The NIH had only studied 242 people. And within 10 weeks, we had over 2,500 people. So we had 10 times the NIH at that time by bringing in the power of citizen science. Bringing in the power of individual people who are curious about their microbiomes that want to answer their own questions and do their own research on the microbiome. And just had not had the opportunity to do that up to that point. And the way they do that, just to be really basic. Very basic. These are people who want to know their bacteria that's on their bodies. Everywhere, right? And I think you were saying three to six pounds of our body weight is-- Yeah. So a tremendous amount of our body weight is in bacteria. But what we do is we collect a really small sample of that. So what people did was we sent out a kit for them to sample. It had a swab and a tube. You'd swab the area. So for your gut, you'd swab your toilet paper. For the other sites, you'd swab like up your nose or in your mouth. You'd stick them in a tube. Not the same tube, different tubes. You stick them in a tube. You shake up the tube, and you send it back to us. What we do is a really complex process in our lab where we have robots that automatically handle the tube. That then do various types of DNA extraction and purification. We put them on a next-generation DNA sequencing machine made by Illumina. Sort of very advanced technology for detecting DNA. And then we kind of come out with a list of DNA reads. So what is the DNA of each of those organisms? And then we convert that to a list of bacteria. And then we compare that list of bacteria to all the other people and we say, you have high levels of-- X. X. Exactly. Now, what are the good bacteria? Remind us again. So there are a lot of good bacteria. And there are a lot of bacteria that are known to be commensal, but we just don't know what they do yet. We don't know how they're beneficial. Because this is relatively new? This is all, really, relatively new. Microbiology is very old, but the science of the microbiome based on looking at DNA sequencing is definitely not older than DNA sequencing. It's as old as fast, cheap DNA sequencing, which is only about five years old. So yeah, in terms of what the good bacteria are, we know lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, akkermansia. There's sort of a long list of bacteria that we know are commensal. And then we always know that diversity in the gut microbiome is a good thing. Now, why-- just to back up a little bit, too. Just to kind of lay the ground here, so to speak, is that we know that we've got lots of bacteria on us. But why do we care? What does this bacteria do? And why should we care? So these beneficial bacteria have co-evolved with us for millions of years. They make vitamins that we can't make ourselves. They digest food that we can't make ourselves. They make chemicals that circulate in our blood that are beneficial to us that we cannot create ourselves. So we've co-evolved with them. If you were to remove all the bacteria from your body somehow tomorrow-- I'd be lighter. You'd be three to six pounds lighter, but you wouldn't be very happy because you would start to develop nutritional deficiencies. It's not known yet if a human would die in that circumstance, but it's not very healthy for a person to not have bacteria. And what's more is the day we strip all your bacteria off of you, new ones start to land from the air and come onto. So unless you live in a very controlled environment, you will always be covered in bacteria. And the reason you care is because if you're going to have bacteria, you want to have beneficial bacteria that are helping you rather than bacteria that are insufficiently protecting you from dangerous pathogens. So there's a party going on here. There's a party. Make sure the right people are invited to the party. That's right. And you don't want it to be crashed by like some frat brothers that are going to hurt you, or something. That would be bad. When people kind of fast-forward, you're very clear when you talk about uBiome in terms of what this data is. What you've been able to do with this, I think, which is fascinating, is that you've established normal ranges for people. So when someone submits their sample, they can see. And you can tell, OK, this is not the norm. So people can tell what's going on. But that's new. That didn't exist before? Yeah, that's true. So we've established healthy ranges for bacteria. And one of the things that is really exciting about that is that a lot of these bacteria, not much was known about them in the past. And now with these healthy ranges, we can say, OK. Here, you're a little low on this. You're fine on that. And kind of help you optimize your microbiome and figure out what might be best for you. The more that I know, obviously-- and it's great to know what's going on in my body. But how can I use this? Or how can someone who's watching use this? Yeah. So I think we all eat. Many of us take supplements to try to influence our microbiome. And part of what a test like this can help you do is figure out, are those things working? Is this actually working for you? So if you're drinking kombucha every day, hoping it's going to do something for your microbiome, let's see if it is. Let's actually look at what's living in your microbiome and see if it as diverse as you would hope it would be. And it does have a balance of healthy bacteria that you would hope would be there. So I think the idea is sort of as a preventative. In terms of preventative medicine, you can look at your microbiome and see where you stand, essentially. And whether or not what you're doing is moving you in the direction you want to go. You gave some really practical thoughts on this, so People that were listening to your talk could understand this is what you should do and these are things you can do that can help you in terms-- I hate to make prescriptions. And these are just foods. And I'm not a doctor. I want to make very clear, I'm not a doctor. I'm actually a data scientist. So I probably shouldn't be making these prescriptions. But I know a bit about bacteria from what we've analyzed. And there's a lot of research to back up the idea that fermented foods are beneficial because you're essentially transferring healthy bacteria from an environment in which they are well-fed and happy in your kombucha or in your yogurt into your gut, where they hopefully will take up residence and be happy, growing as well. Protecting you and making byproducts-- So you're actually transferring bacteria from the food into you? Yeah. If you think about it, if you eat a pickle, there is a biome of that pickle. I will never look at a pickle the same way again. I know. I actually do look at pickles differently now. There's a biome of the pickle that you are eating and putting into your microbiome. And hopefully, it will grow there as well. So the fermented foods. Prebiotic fiber is something as well. So there are certain foods that are-- you can't digest them, but the bacteria can. So you're essentially providing food for a diverse array of organisms. And so you want to have the bacteria there, then you want to feed the bacteria, which is the prebiotic piece you're talking about. That's right. It's fascinating in terms of where this is and where it's going. I think that I was reading that when you had talked before, there's-- the possible applications are one day, you could be applying skin creams that's compatible with your bacteria. That's right. Or that could provide food for beneficial bacteria. Just in the same way that I'm saying eat fermented foods in order to grow good bacteria. There's no reason you couldn't put some concoction on your face that has the good bacteria and the food for them that would then prevent you from getting acne, let's say. So that's not a reality now, but you could see how it easily makes a lot of sense. If you want to outcompete acne, then you would put beneficial bacteria on your skin that would then make it so the acne couldn't grow. The other example that you gave in your talk that I think everyone-- fascinated and cringing all at the same time. Yeah. People have that reaction a lot when I talk about bacteria. It's fascinating. Is the obese mouse and the skinny mouse. That's right. And two words I'd never heard together, fecal transplant. So tell me what that was all about. So there is a study that had causal effects, where you show that if you give fecal microbiome transplant to a mouse, you can make it obese by transferring the microbiome of an obese mouse. You're basically taking the gut bacteria from one mouse and -- You're taking the feces of one mouse. Feces. Let's just be very clear. Putting it in another. I'm not. You are. Sorry, I said it. Putting it into another mouse. And then, that mouse results in being obese. So there are a lot of questions that are raised by that, too. Initially, that's fascinating. It's a fabulous result. Like let's say, wow, there's causality there. It's not just that certain bacteria are correlated with obesity. You can cause obesity by changing the microbiome. But it was the inverse too, wasn't it? And the inverse as well. So you can cause obesity to reduce by adding a lean microbiome. But then, the next-- I mean, that's a great result. That's brilliant work by Jeff Gordon at Wash U who did that. But then the next question is, OK, great. But what about the microbiome that's causing that? And that's something that's still being figured out. So there's a lot more research to be done. I could spend half an hour talking to you, just on this one specific topic. There's a lot. But I know you've got places to go and people to see. But I want to ask you for someone who's listening, what would you want them to take from this? And also, what's next for you in terms of uBiome? So this is a great question. So the first thing I'd want people to take is to love their bacteria. I know we're all taught in grade school, bacteria are pathogenic and they'll kill us. And they're dangerous. But I think that that was from an earlier conception of how the microbiome works and what bacteria-- how they evolved with us. And I think this idea that you should care for your bacteria as a way of caring for your health, I think that's the number one takeaway. And there are many ways to do that, but kind of thinking about it with that sort of perspective shift. And then for us-- for me, it's just back to work. We just launched this clinical test. We have a lot of improvements we want to make to it, ways that we can add-- just test for bacteria. We want to add all sorts of viruses, and yeast, and all sorts of other things that we want to test as well as part of this test. And we have other tests we want to release, too. So there's a lot to do. Fascinating. Thank you so much. Thank you. Great.