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Mayo Clinic, Whole Biome Announce Collaboration

Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014
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Joint development of microbiome diagnostic testing to focus on women’s health and preterm labor.

Certain strains of the campylobacter bacteria, seen above, have long been implicated in preterm labor and spontaneous abortion in livestock. Scientific evidence has started mounting that this foodborne pathogen may trigger preterm labor in humans, as well. New tests from the Mayo Clinic-Whole Biome collaboration aim to detect a range of bacteria, such as campylobacter, to help expectant mothers achieve full-term pregnancies.

The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and Whole Biome today announced a collaboration to develop microbiome targeted diagnostic testing, beginning in Women’s Health, with a focus on preterm labor. Preterm birth is the most common cause of infant death and is the leading cause of long-term disability in children, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many preterm births may be delayed or prevented with microbiome-based testing and intervention, according to Mayo Clinic experts.

“Understanding the microbiome, and translating that understanding into enhanced patient care is a major goal within the Center for Individualized Medicine,” says Heidi Nelson, M.D., director of the center’s Microbiome Program. “Our early work suggests the microbiome may play a significant role in triggering preterm labor, and we are excited to take these early results into clinical trials with Whole Biome’s analytics platform.”

“This collaboration is bringing together the clinical expertise of Mayo Clinic with our innovative diagnostic tools,” says Colleen Cutcliffe, CEO of Whole Biome. “Together, we plan to transform affordable and detailed microbiome information into tools that will improve patient health and their lives.”

Whole Biome’s Complete Biome Test is able to generate microbiome profiles with strain-level resolution at a low cost, enabling researchers and physicians to more rapidly conduct large-scale studies and produce effective microbiome diagnostics to help predict, treat and prevent life-threatening issues.

The microbiome is defined as all of the microbes that reside on the inside and outside of each individual. A person’s body contains 10-times more microbial cells than human cells. Humans have co-evolved with microbiomes and house many microbes that are beneficial for health. However, the human race has been systematically depleting these “good” microbes in an attempt to eradicate the harmful ones through use of antibiotics, antibacterial processes and prolific antimicrobial consumer products. For decades, researchers have known that the microbiome represents a wealth of opportunity in shaping health, but only recently have the genomic and analysis tools been available to make this a reality.

The Center for Individualized Medicine is collaborating with Whole Biome to accelerate the development of novel diagnostics that characterize the microbiome. Whole Biome utilizes sample preparation techniques and specialized analytics that integrate high throughput and long read-length DNA sequencing data to generate high-accuracy microbiome profiles that enable the identification of relevant changes.

The initial focus will be in Women’s Health. Unbalanced vaginal microbiomes have been implicated in a variety of medical issues, including yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and preterm labor. The collaboration’s goal will be to develop a microbiome-based diagnostic test for early indication of preterm labor.


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