Sunny Jain is the CEO and founder of Floré by Sun Genomics, a US-based company that claims to be the first to bring to market a precision synbiotic based off an individual’s gut microbiome.
At the Future Food Tech event in San Francisco last March, he gave a presentation discussing personalised nutrition and the power of customised probiotics and prebiotics for improving gut health.
Consumers in search of self-care solutions
Jain described personalised gut health as an “evolving marketplace, especially in the last three years, where healthcare and diagnostic testing is becoming more available”.
More and more, consumers are looking for self-care solutions, he said – not necessarily just therapeutics, but also natural food solutions, precision nutrition solutions, specific diets, and supplements – while the market for home testing has opened up since the pandemic.
He said: “Whether it's wellness or chronic conditions, one thing is evident: the rising incidence of these chronic conditions and the need to manage the symptoms.
“Sixty percent of Americans suffer from a chronic condition… And while they may be on therapies, they’re also looking for those precision nutrition solutions. They’re looking at the Whole30 diet, they’re looking at the paleo diet, the low-FODMAP diet. They’re looking for supplements to manage all of the symptoms.”
Synbiotics: A potential solution for healthy ageing?
Synbiotics – defined as a “mixture of probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affects the host by improving the survival and activity of beneficial micro-organisms in the gut” – offer a potential solution.
When it comes to the gut microbiome, reduced populations of enterobacteria – organisms such as E. coli – have been linked in studies to longer life, Jain explained.
“Lifespan and longevity [are] associated with gut microbiome management,” he said. “And so now as we focus in on all these different things that we can do … one thing that we need to think about is what is the impact to the gut microbiome, and are we reducing the enterobacteria to a point where we're healthy ageing?”
Floré, which partnered with DSM Venturing earlier this year, uses patented whole-genome DNA sequencing and gut composition analysis to formulate made-to-order probiotics that are personalised to an individual’s gut microflora.
It claims its platform can detect more than 23,000 organisms, including bacteria, parasites, yeast, viruses, and fungi.
Precision synbiotic can reduce enterobacteria that drive chronic health conditions
Jain uses his two sons as case studies. His six-year-old, Ishi, has had three major gut health issues, the first when he was an infant. Jain identified the organism Clostridium bolteae as the problem.
After uncovering “alarming research” about its implications for his son’s health, he decided to administer the precision synbiotic. Tests taken before and after showed “that we were able to decrease the concentration of this inflammatory microbe. And by the third test, we had reduced it down to the levels of a healthy individual”.
Jain’s younger son, two-year-old Adil, also experienced digestive problems; microbiome testing showed that there were high levels of E. Coli in his gut.
“It's an enterobacteria, and it was the toxigenic strain O15:H7,” said Jain. “This strain actually can cause long-term issues if it's found in the first three years of life. The research suggests that long-term chronic conditions are [of] increased risk, and also there's a risk of asthma and allergies.”
When Adil was two months old, Jain gave him the precision synbiotic “and began to see the E. coli drop and went from 30% relative abundance all the way below 2%”.
He said this demonstrated the power of customised synbiotics.
Biomarker testing versus the ‘probiotic wall of confusion’
Jain suggested that biomarker testing could be used to make it easier for consumers to choose products, describing shopping for supplements to help his sons and encountering what he called “the probiotic wall of confusion”.
“I have a background in molecular genomics, a microbiology degree, and worked for LabCorp Illumina and different reference labs – and even I couldn't decipher this,” he said. “I don't know what all these strains are doing.”
By sending a stool sample to a lab for microbiome testing, he could “figure out what the issue is first, and then go for the … custom synbiotic solution”.
However, he warned that not all tests are equal.
“We've really changed from the concept of just bugs to drugs, or drugs to bugs, to flora to food and starting to look at supplements as a way to manage our overall health,” he said. “But we need to do that through biomarker testing – and so the type of biomarker testing that you use is really important…
“If you want to understand species-level resolution and actually understand what are these organisms doing in the gut, what are they releasing in the gut, what impact that has to your health, then you need whole-genome metagenomic data.”