Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Micrometer Genomics develops new microbiome measurement method, wins Mayo Clinic's Walleye Tank

After receiving a Translational Product Development Fund (TPDF) grant last year, the Micrometer Genomics team has been hard at work gearing up for their imminent launch. With the medical world's growing interest in microbiome composition as an indicator of wellbeing, their prospects for the future are looking good. 

So what exactly is a microbiome and why is it such a hot topic right now? Antibiotics are increasingly throwing off the natural balance of "gut bacteria" in humans. Whether the cause is antibiotics usage or dietary or something else, an imbalanced gut biome has been shown to cause a range of severe diseases. If we can accurately determine a person's microbiome composition, we have a better chance of identifying if that person is at risk for certain diseases and can work proactively to restore his or her microbiome to a balanced state.

The issue with this is that the current methodology for determining microbiome composition is highly inaccurate. A team within the University of Minnesota's Genomics Center (UMGC) composed of Kenny Beckman (Director), Daryl Gohl (R&D Lead), with help from Dan Knights (Prof. Computer Science & Biotech Inst.) recognized this problem and worked together to address it. The Micrometer Genomics team developed a much more reliable method for determining the actual composition of human microbiomes, allowing for more consistently effective treatment.

After developing the technology, the team participated in the Medical Technology Value Proposition Design Workshops through MIN-Corps and MN-REACH this past spring. Through customer discovery, the team was able to hone their positioning and identify a viable business model.  Shortly after completing these workshops, the Micrometer Genomics team presented their venture at Founder's Day, an event held by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management.  At this event, founders of new ventures developed in courses across the University of Minnesota discuss their entrepreneurial journey. The presentations ranged from toy airplane launchers to backpacks developed for autistic children, but the Micrometer Genomics team stood out to a local entrepreneur and investor in the audience who has been advising the team ever since.

The Micrometer Genomics team then entered the Walleye Tank pitch competition held at the Mayo Clinic Rochester Campus last June, and won! In the spirit of "Shark Tank", the popular TV series in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of successful business moguls, the Walleye Tank competition focuses on Minnesota-based life science businesses looking for investors. Watch Micrometer Genomics' winning pitch below: