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Biotech Startup Seed Health Invests Heavily in AI-Driven Medical Science for Future Profits


Lauren Miller

June 22, 2024 - 11:30 am


Seed Health Invests in AI-Powered Biology Platform for Frontier Probiotic Science

Seed Health, a profitable biotech startup known for its direct-to-consumer microbiome science synbiotic supplements, is now channeling its profits into an AI-powered biology platform. The objective of this investment is to drive discoveries at the cutting edge of probiotic science. The focus areas for these medical interventions include metabolic health, brain health, longevity, and menopause.

Seed Health's Journey to Profitability

Since its founding in 2015, Seed Health has been at the forefront of microbiome scientific breakthroughs. The company achieved significant success by becoming profitable as a bioscience startup. This was largely due to the popularity of its flagship product, DS-01, a daily probiotic and prebiotic supplement, and its pediatric equivalent. These products are sold directly to consumers in sleek green containers through a subscription model that offers a 30-day supply.

Strategic Reinvestment in Frontier Science

"We’re one of the few biotech companies that can say they’re profitable, and one of the awesome aspects of profitability is that you can reinvest in future innovation and frontier science," said Ara Katz, Seed Health co-founder. Katz, who was named to the inaugural CNBC Changemakers list earlier this year, emphasized the company's commitment to using its profits to fund groundbreaking research.

Launch of CODA: A Computational Biology Platform

On Thursday, Seed Health launched CODA, a computational biology platform funded by its consumer business profitability. "I’ve always kind of thought about constructing a sustainable business model that would allow us to continue to pursue frontier science," Katz said. CODA aims to utilize AI to process massive amounts of phenotypic and genomic data from the Human Phenotype Project, a vast collection of human data points spanning decades.

Advancements in Environmental Applications

In addition to human health, Seed Health's SeedLabs division works on environmental applications for bacteria and the microbiome. These projects include developing probiotics for coral and honey bees, bacteria to decompose plastic, and using volcanic bacteria in carbon capture. These initiatives highlight Seed Health's broader commitment to both human and environmental health.

Subscription Model as a Financial Backbone

The company’s subscription model, offering product subscriptions in one-, three-, or six-month increments, has been pivotal in putting Seed Health in a position to invest in riskier scientific discoveries. Katz noted that this model provides greater financial flexibility and insight, allowing the company to make long-term investments in frontier science. "The through-line for us is always thinking about frontier science that we can accelerate the translation of into real-world impact," she added.

Standardizing Microbiome Science

Katz’s co-founder and co-CEO at Seed Health, Raja Dhir, highlighted that CODA and the accompanying data set will help standardize microbiome science methods, addressing a longstanding issue in the field. Historically, studies have drawn conclusions based on smaller sample sizes and non-standardized methods. CODA's large sample size and numerous data points offer the potential for unprecedented standardization and accuracy in microbiome research.

The Human Phenotype Project

The Human Phenotype Project, advised by top researchers including Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science and Eric Topol from Scripps Research Institute, has a global sample of over 11,000 participants, with a goal of reaching 100,000 participants cataloged annually over 25 years. This project includes multiple biological measures, from genome, proteome, and transcriptome to the microbiome, providing a comprehensive dataset for CODA to analyze.

Addressing Health Issues with Precision

Dhir emphasized the importance of having a large and diverse dataset to draw more accurate and reliable conclusions. "What is the healthy control? You can’t just take a random person and assume that they’re healthy or not healthy. But when you have 10,000 people, and you have all this data on them… let’s contrast our least healthy people to our most healthy people and develop way more tools," he explained. This approach allows for more precise and meaningful insights into health conditions.

Enhancing Scientific Rigor in Probiotic Research

Independent experts in the field agree on the need for improved scientific rigor in probiotic research. Dr. Arpana Gupta, an associate professor at UCLA and co-director of the Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center, noted the proliferation of probiotic products in the market and emphasized the importance of rigorous scientific testing and clinical trials to validate their effectiveness.

Focus Areas for CODA's Initial Applications

CODA’s initial applications are in metabolic health, brain health, longevity, and menopause. These research areas were chosen because early data from CODA indicated strong evidence supporting their potential impact. Eran Segal highlighted the significance of translating findings from CODA into real-world applications, ultimately benefiting millions of people.

Deep Phenotyping and Data Standardization

Dhir elaborated on the concept of deep phenotyping, which involves integrating various types of data to create a comprehensive profile of an individual. "It’s a tremendous step forward in not just the standardization of data, but also the different types of data. That’s why it’s called deep phenotyping," he said. CODA unlocks the potential to reveal clear signals from previously noisy bioinformatics data.

Broader Implications for Human and Planetary Health

Seed Health's efforts in pioneering microbiome science have implications beyond individual health. Many experts in the field, including Dr. Joseph Petrosino from Baylor College of Medicine, believe that the microbiome holds promise for applications in cancer treatment, both as a diagnostic tool and as a potential therapeutic agent.

Conclusion: A Vision for the Future

Seed Health's investment in CODA and its focus on frontier probiotic science demonstrate a commitment to pushing the boundaries of microbiome research. By leveraging AI and extensive datasets, the company aims to make significant contributions to human and environmental health. The journey from a profitable startup to a leader in pioneering science underscores Seed Health's vision of translating groundbreaking research into real-world impact.