2019-10-24 10:36
by Lisa Keilhofer
  Last edited: 2019-11-03 18:05

Sloppiness at uBiome: Company closed down.

Sloppiness at stool tests
Shit happens. Sloppiness at microbiome stool tests strikes down uBiome. Picture: © iridi66 - stock.adobe.com

MyMicrobiome offers an overview of product tests for anyone interested in having analyzed his or her stool and getting to know ones own gut microbiome: Gut microbiome test kits. We scrutinized a few test kits that can be found on the market and you can check and find out what is the most suitable one for you.

The forerunner in those stool testings was the US company uBiome. When we started our test series, we also sent an inquiry to uBiome, asking whether or not they were interested in taking part in our survey, but received a negative reply due to the current issues. Furthermore, uBiome was mentioned in an article on a planned cooperation with L'oreal in research on the skin microbiome: Cosmetic industry puts skin microbiome into focus. So, even if uBiome was not part of our test evaluations, the company was still an important player in our microbiome world.

uBiome confronted with harsh accusations

In April this year, uBiome faced harsh accusations by the FBI:>>> Article Businessinsider. Co-Founder and co-CEO Jessica Richman along with 50 employees were put on administrative leave until further notice. In addition, uBiome stopped selling the test kits SmartJane and SmartGut. The investigation put a focus on uBiome’s billing practices. According to the Wall Street Journal and CNBC, uBiome was found guilty in billing customers twice (>>> Link wsj.com and >>> Link cnbc.com). Furthermore, connections between the company and the prescribing doctors were found. The other products of uBiome’s portfolio remained on the market. The irregularities were apparently only found with the above named SmartJane and SmartGut.

It has now turned out that also in analyzing the stool samples the handling was not as careful as it is supposed to be. The comparative samples turned out to be partially from infants, children – and even one mouse-stool-sample seemed to have been intermingled. The conspicuous composition of the samples drew the investigator’s attention to them. For instance, an infants stool contains a high number of microbes clearly linked to breast milk: >>> Link Fiercebiotech.com.

Why you should know about it

We have tracked the whole process for you, but opted against publishing an article on it back then, as the initial accusation was “only” on billing practices and not on anything linked to the actual microbiome research or data collection. Only the company’s CFO and linked resorts seemed to be involved in the case and as we had not tested its products, anyway, so it seemed not relevant for our readers.

As the accusations are apparently now extended to the day-to-day business in uBiome’s labs, we feel obliged to also let you know about it. Beginning of July, uBiome was forced to put a complete halt on its operative business.

The new accusations refer not only to billing and finances, but directly to the content quality. We hope that this fuss does not affect the reputation of other gut microbiome testing companies or the testing as itself negatively. However, their work practices have to be scrutinized critically – by us from MyMicrobiome, among others. The results of these testings are being uploaded (de-idetified, of course) into open-source databases. Participants in these analysis not only learn a lot about their own constitution, but also contribute to microbiome research, in general (example: American Gut Project).

We, the MyMicrobiome team, only accept solid science. uBiome mishandled microbiome testing and gave such a bad example. We, the MyMicrobiome team will continue to check whether companies in the field do excellent and incontestable scientific work.

Building trust – MyMicrobiome

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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