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A Gutsy Idea: The Human Microbiome

Boston
Innovation Center February 12th, 2015

We’ve come to learn that discoveries can come from the most unexpected places, and sometimes you just have to follow your gut—even if that is where the discoveries are!

It is widely appreciated that our entire body, from our mouth, to our skin, and gut, are home to a diverse population of microbes, mostly working together to keep us healthy. However, over the past several years, scientific research is linking an imbalanced microbial community to conditions as diverse as cancer, inflammatory, pulmonary and metabolic disease. What is remarkable for this young field is the notion that while any underlying mechanisms of disease involvement are still far from being unraveled, numerous applications are rapidly emerging. The accumulating evidence that fecal microbiota transplants can have spectacular efficacies in treating certain infectious diseases, and the growing perception that the microbiome is a unique "organ that can be replaced without surgery" (Ed Yong, NYT 11/01/2014), is grabbing countless entrepreneurs' imagination, sending them on a mission to explore opportunities for changing oneself by changing one's microbiome.

While no one has yet harnessed microbiome science to deliver a therapeutic on the shelf, we are seeking to deepen the scientific intent and capabilities in this emerging area of the microbiome research through the Janssen Human Microbiome Institute. The institute will be designed to create a collaborative ecosystem to accelerate the translation of microbiome research into therapeutic targets and diagnostics, and seek to overcome any challenges associated with this exciting approach.

Key to the new institute’s strategy is to create an international network involving people at the Johnson & Johnson Innovation centers, at the different Janssen R&D sites both in Europe (Beerse, Belgium) and throughout the U.S., and engage the external community from both academic centers and biotechnology companies. Some examples of already existing collaborations with biotechnology companies and academic institutions advancing the science of the microbiome include:

Collaborator

Focus of Collaboration

Second Genome

Advancing novel drug targets focused on therapeutic mechanisms in ulcerative colitis mediated by the microbiome

Vedanta BioSciences

Advancing a novel class of therapies that modulate pathways of interaction between the human microbiome and the host immune system

Icahn School Of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Advancing the scientific understanding of inflammatory bowel disease and the discovery of next generation therapeutic solutions             

The University of Manchester

Exploring potential applications of probiotic extracts for prevention and treatment of skin, oral, and respiratory conditions

AB Biotics

Collaborating on a oral probiotic solution for Consumer healthcare

 

Going forward, we will continue to explore the microbiome and other emerging fields of science that have the potential to unlock new discoveries and new therapies for patients worldwide.  

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