uBiome has launched a citizen science effort to map the human microbiome, the microorganisms that inhabit every inch of our skin as well as our ears, mouth, sinuses, genitals and gut. 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.

The biotech startup from the University of California San Francisco branch of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) seeks to spark the era of personalized medicine by providing the public with easily accessible information about their own bodies using the latest in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology.

uBiome provides citizen scientists with a catalog of their own microbes; detailing the microbial composition of the body and explaining what is known about each genera of microbe. In addition, uBiome compares participants’ microbiomes with numerous past studies on the role of the microbiome in health, diet and lifestyle. uBiome also provides personal analysis tools and data viewers so that users can anonymously compare their own data with crowd data as well as with the latest scientific research. uBiome is HIPAA compliant and will not release personal identifying data or information to anyone.

The more people join the uBiome community, the more statistical power the project will have to investigate connections between the microbiome and human health. For example, with 500 people, uBiome will be able to answer questions about relatively common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. With 2,500, the project can investigate connections to breast cancer. With 50,000 people, the project can begin to address multiple sclerosis and leukemia.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Zach Apte, Will Ludington, Jessica Richman
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: uBiome/California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3)
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Data Processing
  • COST: More than $50
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Visit the IndieGogo Web site, indicate your pledge amount and submit the requested information. Citizen scientists can choose the amount of money they wish to pledge. With a pledge of at least $69, citizen scientists receive a sample kit for swabbing and submitting their human microbiome. uBiome uses a number of sampling sites located throughout the body: nose, mouth, ear, GI tract and genitals.

    Once uBiome has sequenced a sample, they will send that individual his or her results and a login to the uBiome Web site where that person can visualize and understand his or her data. uBiome provides personal analysis tools and data viewers so users can anonymously compare their own data with crowd data as well as with the latest scientific research.

See more projects in More than $50Data ProcessingAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription
as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >


Email this Article