|While biobanks and their innovative laboratory management software are typically recognized as vital to modern research, most studies and projects that use them seem to focus on human diseases and conditions. However, it was recently announced that a metagenomics company has partnered with a provider of digestive health solutions for companion animals. Together, these organizations plan to develop a sample collection kit for dogs, which could be used to better examine canine health, especially digestive health problems.As part of the agreement, the Houston-based metagenomics sequencing and analysis service, Metanome, will test samples collected with Companion PBx’s Dx Fingerprint kit. This kit highlights deficiencies in pets’ GI health, which will allow the company to give veterinarians and pet owners better treatment recommendations. The samples will also be used to create a planned database of microbiomes from healthy and unhealthy animals, which will be used to create specialty foods and probiotic supplements to be used in modified diets. Companion PBx says that the kit costs about $30 and is available to limited populations to collect data, but will be made more broadly available in the future.
Established in 2013, Metanome offers a number of sequencing services, including 16s and 18s rRNA sequencing and qPCR, whole-genome shotgun sequencing, single-organism genome sequencing, microbial RNA and transcriptome sequencing, and viral metagenomic sequencing. The company also provides consulting services for experimental design and project implementation, ranging from sample selection, collection and storage to culturing and imaging. As a result, Metanome has extensive experience with diverse human microbiome sample types. However, their partnership with Companion PBx is their first project working with domestic animals. The company says the project exemplifies their open-minded, marketable approach to biobanking and sequencing, and could offer helpful solutions to animals suffering from digestive problems.
“Non-human biobanks of genetic material have been an important resource for research for years, particularly in areas such as primate research, and museum collections at places like the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian,” said Rick Michels, Vice President at Dataworks Development, which developed the software Freezerworks to manage biobank collections. “Domestic pets is a natural next step. In fact, our software has been in use at a biorepository at Purina, for research on their extensive pet product line.”
However, Metanome’s 50-person staff has their work cut out for them: the firm will be competing with companies like Second Genome, which recently announced that it had created a microbiome discovery platform to identify and validate microbiome modulated drug targets. Likewise, a company called Enterome Biosciences is currently developing projects to profile the human gut biome, which would improve the management of various metabolic, gastrointestinal, and autoimmune conditions.
Fortunately, Second Genome’s research activities are largely supported by proprietary and licensed technology for metagenomic assays, bioinformatics pipelines, and in vitro and in vivo assays. Meanwhile, Enterome Biosciences has partnered with the pharmaceutical company AbbVie to create diagnostic tools for Crohn’s disease and other conditions. It is also working with the Mayo Clinic to develop and test microbiome-based tests for obese and overweight patients. For that reason, Metanome seems to be one of the only metagenomic research facilities studying animal microbiomes. But will this endeavor be as scientifically valuable and economically viable as its employees and Companion PBx seem to think? Only time will tell.