SEQBIOME, a new University College Cork (UCC) biotech spinout officially launched today, will provide firms with insight into how food and ingredients interact with the most microscopic organisms in our digestive systems.
The founder and chief executive of SeqBiome, Dr Marcus Claesson, said the startup already has signed up several internationally-focused clients, including Swiss food and drink conglomerate Nestlé.
SeqBiome joins a list of fellow spinout enterprises from the APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre, which was founded at UCC in 2003 as the Alimentary Pharma- biotic Centre.
Previous startups linked to the facility include Atlantia Food Clinical Trials, Artugen Therapeutics, 4D Pharma Cork and PrecisionBiotics.
SeqBiome will specialise in the analysis and DNA sequencing of micro-organisms within the 'microbiome'.
This constitutes the genetic material of all the microbes - such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses - that live on and inside the human body. Such micro-organisms can account for as much as five pounds in weight on a typical human body.
Scientists worldwide are seeking to analyse the myriad roles of these micro- organisms in shaping human health and disease. Bacteria within each person's microbiome help to digest food, produce certain vitamins, regulate our immune system, and keep us healthy by protecting us against disease-causing bacteria.
"For many pharma, nutrition, sport, agriculture and healthcare companies, microbiome analysis is a complex and time-consuming process," Dr Claesson said.
"It requires the support of expensive sequencing facilities, significant computational power and an extensive expertise in bioinformatic analysis and interpretation. Without these in-house capabilities, commercial organisations struggle to derive meaningful and reliable information about their products and their impact on microbiomes."
He said SeqBiome would help all its clients - including MARS Petcare, the Alpinia Institute and Microbion - to "develop world-class products that make a real difference to microbiome health".
Dr Claesson is a principal investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland and UCC's programme director of the MSc in computational biology and 'bioinformatics'. That field combines biology, computer science, maths and statistics to interpret biological data.
The firm's chief technology officer, Professor Paul Cotter, is a molecular microbiologist and the head of food biosciences at Teagasc.