Adventures in Ladytech: uBiome's Jessica Richman Wants to Map Yo' Gut CootiesAnne Murray

Jessica & the uBiome team (uBiome)

Meet Jessica Richman. After she’s done with your stomach, you’ll never look at your cute lil’ gut critters the same way again.

Jessica is one amazing woman with an impressive background to boot; she attended Stanford University, worked at Google, McKinsey, Lehman Brothers, the Grameen Bank and top-tier Silicon Valley venture firms. She’s now studying at Oxford, where I am sure she is extremely cold right now.

She started and sold her own company even before graduating from high school, leading her down the wonderful path of an entrepreneur.

She’s now hard at work with uBiome, a brand new citizen science project that sequences your microbiome to figure out how it influences human health and disease. Microbiomes are a recently discovered and very important new organ in the human body, made not from human cells but from trillions and trillions of microbes, which are tiny organisms. In other words, OMG COOTIES HOW DID YOU GET IN MY STOMACH!!!!

uBiome has gotten kudos from BoingBoing, Scientific American, NPR, ABC News and even famed entrepreneur and overall famous person Tim Ferriss gave them a huge shoutout, calling uBiome “a glimpse of the future.”

uBiome will map your gut and give you information and insights that you have never had access to in the past, which will in turn be a huge contribution to science. So it’s a win/win/win situation. A win for uBiome, a win for science and a win for your cooties.

What exactly are the benefits to gettin’ yo’ gut mapped, you might ask? From their indiegogo campaign:

  • Low carb diet? Certain gut enterotypes are strongly associated with long-term diets, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella). Maybe you are not sticking to your diet as much as you think.
  • Does your gut microflora correlate with people who have diabetes? If you have other symptoms as well, you might want to talk with your doctor.
  • Is your nasal microbiome associated with the profile of chronic sinusitis? Abreu, et al (2012) found that multiple, phylogenetically distinct lactic acid bacteria were depleted concomitant with an increase in the relative abundance of a single species, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum.
  • Do you drink a lot of alcohol? If your gut profile clusters with heavy drinkers, you might want to consider cutting back on the booze.
  • Do you have Irritable Bowel Disorder (or any other bowel condition)? You may want to purchase our specially designed kit and survey for bowel disorders.

We sat down with Jessica so that she could fill us in about her groundbreaking project. To get your own gut mapped, (for insanely affordable prices!) head over to her indiegogo campaign.

What does uBiome do?

uBiome has launched the world’s first crowd-sourced effort to map the human microbiome. We provide direct access to cutting edge scientific research to the public in order to let people learn more about their health and contribute to scientific progress. Gathering this information is the first step to personalized medicine based on each individual’s own physical characteristics and health.

What’s the human microbiome?

The microbiome are the bacteria that live on and within us. It sounds kind of funny, but all of us are actually covered in helpful germs – we couldn’t live without them. Studies have linked our microbiome to how human health in thousands of ways. Many conditions – from diabetes to depression, asthma to autism — are found to relate to the microbiome. And the microbiome also keeps us well.

What’s cool about the microbiome?

Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem. The correct balance of microbes serves to keep potential pathogens in check and regulate the immune system. Microbes also perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins. Up to a third of the bioactive chemicals in the human bloodstream appear to be synthesized by microbes rather than by the human body – for example 90% of our serotonin (a neurotransmitter in the brain) is produced by bacteria.

What got you interested in biotech?

I’m really excited about the possibilities at the intersection of biotechnology, Big Data, and health care. There are so many things we can do that will have a real impact on people’s lives. I’d recommend that girls throw out the old stereotypes and old ways of learning and learn more about these really interesting areas.

What made you want to go into the startup world?

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid – I started my first business when I was like 8 years old. I’m very excited to combine my love for science and technology with my desire to change the world — and to create something that has the possibility of benefiting so many people.

Any challenges that you have faced being in an industry largely populated by dudes?

At this point, I’m used to it! I don’t think that women should think of themselves as alone in a male-dominated field, but take the opportunity to be an example to others and lead the way.

What does a young lady that wants to get in your line of work need to do RIGHT NOW?

I think the most important thing is to find something you really care about and pursue it – to tie your passion for having an impact into the field you choose. Opportunities are exploding in areas that address the world’s real problems: biotech, energy, health care. Find a field you really care about and pursue it!

Quick, what’s your favorite app right now?

I really like WalkJogRun for mapping and sharing workouts.

Quicker! What’s the gadget that’s making your life that much easier right now?

Probably silly, but I got my first pair of noise-cancelling headphones recently, and I love them.

Image is Jessica & the uBiome team (uBiome)

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