Microba founders Professors Gene Tyson and Phil
Hugenholtz. Picture: AAP/John Gass
Renowned Queensland scientist Ian Frazer is one of about 30
investors who have raised $7 million for University of Queensland
startup company Microba.
The company sells kits to provide DNA sequencing of a person's
gut bacteria and has built and equipped a laboratory on the
Princess Alexandra Hospital campus.
Professor Frazer, the inventor of the groundbreaking cervical
cancer vaccine, sits on the company's board as a director.
University of Queensland Professor Ian Frazer.
Prof Frazer said he had wanted to return some of the wealth
generated from his vaccine discovery to help grow biotech in
Queensland "recognising the risk but also the potential benefit for
a return on investment".
Microba CEO Blake Wills said the company had already sold 2000
of the $349 tests, described as the most advanced DNA sequencing of
the micro-organisms in a person's intestinal tract available on the
Information about a person's gut micro-organisms, known as their
microbiome, is expected to play an increasingly important role in
"It's extremely exciting as to the links that are being drawn to
things such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression," Mr
He said the company already had 20 employees and that was
expected to double in the next 18 months.
Mr Wills said the company was already selling the tests to
consumers and researchers, and had plans to make them available in
hospital and medical settings. "Australia is a key focus for us
right now, but we also expect to offer this on the global stage,"
"China's particularly interesting because for a long time, they
have had a strong focus on the gut being central to overall health
and well being.''
The company has also had preliminary talks with pharmaceutical
giants Johnson & Johnson and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
about using Microba's expertise to test candidates for medical
grade probiotic formulas, aimed at boosting gut health.
"This company has a lot of opportunities to grow and help an
enormous number of people manage their gut health and well-being.
That's extremely important to us and that's why the company was set
up," Mr Wills said.
The test, developed by University of Queensland professors Phil
Hugenholtz and Gene Tyson, of the Australian Centre for
Ecogenomics, requires a person to provide a sample of faecal matter
for analysis. Consumers are sent a set of dietary recommendations
on how to improve their microbiome based on the results.
- Janelle Miles, The Courier-Mail