Advancing microbiome analysis for infectious disease research

Two Connecticut bioscience entities — The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and Shoreline Biome — are partnering to develop new ways to study the microbiome (the community of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies) and develop new diagnostic approaches for disease-causing pathogens.

Under a new sponsored research agreement, the laboratory of microbiome pioneer George Weinstock, Ph.D., JAX professor, Evnin Family Chair and director of microbial genomics, will work with Shoreline to use the latest in DNA sequencing technology to analyze the entire metagenome (the collective genome of the microbiome) in order to identify individual organisms including pathogenic Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes diarrhea and more serious conditions such as colitis.

“This project will take advantage of the expertise at JAX Genomic Medicine in metagenomics and microbiome analysis,” Weinstock says, “as well as Shoreline Biome’s expertise in developing applications for the latest next-generation sequencing technologies.”

Connecticut microbiome research partnership

Weinstock adds, “Pathogens such as C. difficile are common in hospitals and long-term care facilities, posing a major health threat. Together with Shoreline Biome, we are developing new techniques to identify these pathogens, as well as to study the wide-ranging health effects of the multitudes of microorganisms that inhabit each of us.”

Weinstock and Shoreline Biome founders Tom Jarvie and Mark Driscoll, formerly of 454 Life Sciences (a Roche company), are longtime collaborators, with a shared interest in using advanced sequencing techniques for infectious disease diagnostics and in developing microbiome-based therapeutics for diseases.

In 2015 Shoreline Biome moved to the UConn Technology Incubation Program in Farmington, less than a mile from the JAX facility. The TIP location allows the Shoreline Biome team to continue its important scientific work at a location designed to allow technology ventures to collaborate with leading physicians and researchers. Recently the company received funding from the Connecticut Biosciences Innovation Fund. Shoreline Biome CEO Tom Jarvie says this was the opportunity to develop the new research agreement with JAX.

“Connecticut’s investments in the biosciences sector are providing the necessary environment for Shoreline Biome and JAX to thrive and collaborate,” Jarvie says.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs 1,800 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.