The Official Blog of the Annual Translational Microbiome Conference

The official blog of the Annual Translational Microbiome Conference provides readers with information, insight and analysis regarding the microbiome.

Interview with Mollie Roth: Executive Director of The Microbiome Coalition (TMBC)

 

Interview with Mollie Roth, JD

Executive Director of The Microbiome Coalition (TMBC)

 

What is The Microbiome Coalition and what’s its goal?

The Microbiome Coalition (TMBC) represents a variety of commercial entities working toward commercial success in the microbiome field, united by their desire to promote greater public understanding of the role of the microbiome in human health and wellness, and the desire to advance appropriate regulation, needed investment and required infrastructure.

Recognizing that a shift in how microbiome based medicine and research is implemented will not happen simply because a body of scientific evidence suggests it should, TMBC has identified key goals to support and advance the industry, including: Education, Regulatory Engagement and Standards. You can learn more about what we are doing on all three fronts at http://www.themicrobiomecoalition.com/

 

How did TMBC come to be formed? 

Although I started my career as a litigator for the pharmaceutical industry, I have always had an affinity for making business run better. I spent 10 years working with a precision medicine consulting company helping pharma drug development teams understand how to co-develop and launch companion diagnostics.

In early 2013, I started working as a consultant in the microbiome space and became interested not only in the vast body of research that was happening across multiple industries – pharmaceutical, diagnostic, consumer products and nutrition – but in the challenges for companies to become a commercial success. Many of the hurdles and challenges this industry faces mirror exactly the experience in the precision medicine field – an unclear regulatory path, unclear business models, a lack of standards, differing reference databases among others.

It was my opinion, based on my experience in the precision medicine field, that a coalition of companies in this space could better address and overcome these challenges than any one company could. Thankfully the founding companies agreed with me and TMBC was born.

 

You said one of TMBC's goals pertains to standards, is there a problem with standards in the microbiome space?

In scientific research, standards allow for and ensure quality in research and the generation of quality evidence that can be compared across researchers and companies. Absent uniform standards, the quality of scientific research can be uneven and lacking in credibility, making it difficult to make confident, concrete assertions or predictions regarding evidence for improving practice or consumer outcomes.

For example, in the precision medicine space, we saw the lack of standards cause issues when it became apparent that there were no standardized practices for how samples being used to generate clinical data for diagnostic tests were handled. There are a number of groups already hard at work on two distinct standards issues in the microbiome space – how samples are handled and sequenced as well as how the vast volume of information generated in this space is processed. 

TMBC will serve as a clearinghouse for these activities already underway and will bring these disparate groups to the table to ensure they are engaging with each other so the industry ends up with a set of conformed standards, rather than numerous sets of non-interoperable standards.

 

What companies formed TMBC?

The founding companies are a visionary set of innovators who quickly understood the need for a coalition of companies working toward commercial success in the microbiome space and have provided seed support and substantial resources to get the coalition off the ground. They include AOBiome, Whole Biome, CosmosID, Abbott Nutrition, The Mayo Clinic, Diversigen and Second Genome.

 

How important are collaborations in the microbiome space?

 As incredibly important as they are in any area of new scientific research!

There are literally hundreds of small startup companies making incredibly exciting discoveries with regard to the microbiome, but without the resources or global reach to complete their research or get products approved and launched. Collaborations with larger companies, carefully crafted to ensure a win-win, are not only vital but imperative to move this space forward.

Further, now that we are a few years into the “age of the microbiome” we are starting to see a convergence between microbiome therapies and precision medicine, as companies consider how patients might need to be stratified based on their microbiome to determine who best to treat. The business models of how pharma and diagnostic companies can best collaborate and work together will continue to be vitally important as these two spaces continue to merge.

 

Is membership in TMBC open and to whom?

Membership in TMBC is open and we welcome any company, association or individual with an interest in advancing the commercial viability of microbiome based therapies, diagnostics, consumer or nutrition products to address and improve human health and wellness. You can learn more about membership options at http://www.themicrobiomecoalition.com/become-a-member/

 

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Shahram Lavasani, Ph.D.

Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer
Immune Biotech

Profile coming soon.

Scott Jackson, Ph.D.

Group Leader, Complex Microbial Systems
NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology

Profile coming soon.

Rachel Clemens, Ph.D.

Commerical Innovation Manager, Life Science Lead
ISS US National Lab, Center for Advancement in Science in Space

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Lynne Elmore, Ph.D.

Director, Translational Cancer Research Program
American Cancer Society

Lynne Elmore, PhD, is the director of the Translational Cancer Research program in the Extramural Grants department of the American Cancer Society (ACS). She manages a research portfolio focused on cell biology, infectious disease, the microbiome, molecular genetics, and cancer drug discovery.

Garth Ehrlich, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Professor of Otolayngology - Head & Neck Surgery
Drexel University College of Medicine

Dr Ehrlich is Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCOM) in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Dr. Ehrlich is also the founder and director of three Research Centers of Excellence in the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease: the Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS); the Center for Advanced Microbial Processing (CAMP); and the Center for Surgical Infections and Biofilms.

He also directs Drexel University’s Core Genomics Facility and the Meta-Omics Shared Resource for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – an NCI-designated Cancer Center.

Momo Vuyisich, Ph.D.

Chief Scientific Officer
Viome

Momo Vuyisich is a co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Viome, a data-driven personalized nutrition company. Momo provides scientific leadership at Viome and his vision is to revolutionize healthcare from "symptoms management" to a true preventative medicine. He leads product development, clinical test implementation, and comprehensive clinical research portfolio.

Momo is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico Tech. Before co-founding Viome in 2016, Momo spent 12 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he led the Applied Genomics team, which developed the core technology used by Viome today.

Nancy Caralla

Founding President, Executive Director
C Diff Foundation

Nancy C Caralla is a three-time Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) survivor. She has accumulated over 25 years of experience in the nursing profession blended with over 30 years in international construction management. Over the past several years, Nancy, in partnership with C Diff Foundation members, has focused on raising C. difficile awareness through education and advocating for Clostridium difficile infection prevention, treatments, clinical trials, AMR, and environmental safety worldwide. The C Diff Foundation is a non-profit organization that takes great pride in its volunteers, chairpersons, and committees.

Rachel Teitelbaum, Ph.D.

Chief Executive Officer
Hervana

Profile coming soon.

Sonia Timerlake, Ph.D.

Vice President of Research
Finch Therapeutics

Dr. Sonia Timberlake is the VP of Research at Finch Therapeutics, a microbiome therapeutics company. Sonia is an expert at designing NGS-based algorithms for applications in microbial genomics, immunogenomics, and evolution. Prior to joining Finch, she built and managed AbVitro's computational algorithms and infrastructure, supporting high throughput single-cell immune phenotyping and repertoire sequencing technology. This technology platform was acquired by Juno Therapeutics, where Sonia led a multidisciplinary team to harness native adaptive immune responses for developing engineered cell therapies in oncology.

Dae-Wook Kang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of Toledo

Profile coming soon.

Sameer Sonkusale, Ph.D.

Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Prof. of Biomedical Engineering (adjunct), Director/Principal Investigator, Nano Lab
Tufts University

Profile coming soon.

Amy Feehan, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Ochsner Health System

Dr. Feehan is an early stage investigator who received her BS and PhD in Neuroscience from The Brain Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans. She has conducted research in humans and rodents covering topics ranging from drug development of novel endomorphin analogs for pain, to sleep and circadian rhythms research and most recently the gut-brain axis and infectious disease. Her doctoral work led to two patents for a compound that reverses both acute and chronic pain with no observable risk of addiction. She currently works as a research scientist in the Infectious Disease department at Ochsner in New Orleans designing and executing investigator-initiated clinical trials.