UQ start up Microba selling kits to test a person’s gut bacteria

Microba Founders Professors Gene Tyson And Phil Hugenholtz

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.


UQ Professor Ian Frazer

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 Australian market.


Information about a person's gut micro-organisms, known as their microbiome, is expected to play an increasingly important role in health care.


"It's extremely exciting as to the links that are being drawn to things such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression," Mr Wills said.


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," he said.


"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 

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