Dr Debojyoti Dhar, Co-Founder and Director, Leucine Rich Bio talks about the current status of microbiome domain and its role in revolutionising the healthcare paradigm
Our journey in the microbiome domain started in 2015. We had launched our company, Leucine Rich Bio pvt ltd. in the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru in the late half of 2014. We integrated our expertise in genomics, systems biology, molecular biology, information technology and bioinformatics to build a robust system that could address the challenges of the microbiome domain. We curated tons of research papers to build our own databases (Microbyte and Nutribyte) which contained information on the various aspects of the microbiota, their link to diseases, nutrients in food etc. Next challenge was to develop algorithms and matrices that would take the raw data from next generation sequencing machines as input and provide an actionable output in the form of a report utilizing the data from our in-house databases. That’s how South Asia’s first microbiome test, BugSpeaks was launched in mid-2018. Also, in early 2021, we launched India’s first gut microbiome data-based nutraceutical line, Rychbiome. It gives us immense pride that we could become this region’s first microbiome company and in doing so also helped spread awareness on this very important aspect.
So, what have been our challenges? Well, microbiome domain is very complicated and it required a great mix of expertise from various quarters to pull this off. Running a deep science based start-up in India has its challenges. Although in the last few years the start-up ecosystem has evolved yet it has still miles to go for it to become mature like in the West. Then there was lack of awareness as this domain was new. Interestingly, people in general, in India know a lot about the importance of gut health as our ancient scriptures like Ayurveda emphasised on keeping the gut healthy. Most people in India eat a variety of fermented foods as part of their routine diet thereby taking care of their gut! however, the fact that one can now profile one’s gut microflora and based on that could take certain actionable steps to improve their health and wellness was very new to them. We also found a lack of interest from majority of the investment community in India. This may be again because this field was new and there were no yardsticks to compare us with. But I feel now things are changing and I hope investors in India can see the potential of this domain and how it can change the way healthcare functions!
So, what are the advantages that we have? First, India is very diverse. The gene pool, the food habits, the climate, everything adds tremendous value to the microbiome data. Secondly, India is rich source of skilled and talented workforce. We are already an IT major and we have tremendous skilled force in the biotechnology and life-science domains as well. Such combination is hard to find by and expensive in other parts of the world.
Where do we see the microbiome space going? We feel this domain can revolutionise the healthcare paradigm. Currently it is more commonly associated with the wellness category but it has the potential to provide diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic solutions in gastroenterology, oncology, mental health and women health!
We feel India is in the cusp of providing major breakthroughs in various fields and microbiome domain is no different provided the government and investor community support this space!