Sun Genomics – Preliminary Thoughts

I have been getting several messages a day from readers about this firm that has started to aggressively advertise on facebook etc. I have had messages, emails and telephone conversations with Sunny Jain , M.S. (Molecular Medicine and Cell Biology) – the founder and CEO. His Linked In profile. and crunchbase profile Like me and my multiple sites, his business grew out of personal family issues with the microbiome.

Fortunately, there has been no NDA requested or “off the record” requests. I am a blogger, which means that I am also a Journalist (see this court ruling), thus whatever was share is technically free game.

Waiting for … from Sunny

The following is an existing request to him:

  • An example of some of their 16s samples with the probiotic mixture generated for each. Sample to be in ‘ubiome json’ format
    • Why? We are using different methods and our recommendations may be radically different.
    • This may open up a can of worms — I can provide citations for all of my recommendations to show my logic. SunGenomics may be working off a lot less citations.

Requests to Sunny

  • Can you custom mix probiotics from a formula created and sent from my site? This would solve a lot of challenges people have.
    • No, the issue of liability if they do not come up with the formula based on their analysis. This explanation makes no sense.
  • Can you provide single strain probiotics, especially for strains where there are no single source providers on the market?
    • He is looking at it. Probiotics are very high markup.

Another struggling Ubiome?

The financial basis of the company is Venture Capital (the same type of situation that drove Ubiome into ‘pushing things‘ to satisfy the venture capitalists.

https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/sun-genomics

For myself and my sites — it is totally self funding (i.e. my own wallet and paycheck from the day job); old school ‘garage startup‘. Garage startup worked for Amazon, Apple, Google, etc. (Reference).

SunGenomics was founded in 2016, Sunny and his wife are scientists (I do not believe either are physicians) working full time for the firm. There are 11 people showing on the team page. Three million divided by 11 over 3 years, means $90,000/employee. Translation: they may be running financially lean/under-funded/over-grown. A scenario similar to Ubiome. Sunny indicated that the team is stretched/stressed (a.k.a. under-staffed)

Speculation On Internal Process

Their technology appears overhyped and may be using alternative wordings to obfuscate what they do. This can be a good marketing ploy — their direct competitors use different terms — hence they are doing something different!

from https://sungenomics.com/

Some key points, they use a patented technology. There is no claim of having the patent on it. This will be missed by most people who will conclude that it is THEIR patented technology – it’s wordsmithing! They also emphasis “DNA” excessively, I believe it is actually rDNA (i.e. 16s)

Correction: Sunny emailed, they are not using 16s (72K) but Whole Genome Microbial Sequencing (2421). The numbers are the number of articles using each term on PubMed. 16s is more common and have had many more studies.

16s vs Whole Genome Sequencing

Analysis of the microbiome: Advantages of whole genome shotgun versus 16S amplicon sequencing

In terms of results, there can be differences. They agree on the ones that they have in common, but WGS reports about 50% more:

Analysis of the microbiome: Advantages of whole genome shotgun versus 16S amplicon sequencing

”  In summary, our study demonstrates that WGS has multiple advantages compared with the 16S rRNA amplicon method including enhanced detection of bacterial species, increased detection of diversity and increased prediction of genes. “

Analysis of the microbiome: Advantages of whole genome shotgun versus 16S amplicon sequencing

At 1888 species vs 3239 species, the differences appear to be major — the reality is that apart from names — we know almost nothing about how to increase or decrease these additional bacteria. For our purposes at hand, it gives academic knowledge but not practical clinical knowledge, IMHO.

Given the expressed concerned over liabilities; I believe they are ultra-conservative (a.k.a. Standard of Care) in their suggestions. I would not be surprised if their selection of probiotic strains and application to each consumer is just a rehash of information from either of these two excellent guides prepared by Dragana Skokovic-Sunjic .

These guides ranks what we know about each probiotic in a solid objective manner. I strongly recommend them.

Bottom Line

I have reservations about using this firm. If someone out there wishes to give them a trial ($800 to do below!l, I would love to get the following for a followup post:

  • Ubiome done from the same sample that is shipped to them.
  • List of probiotic strains in the probiotic delivered to them
  • Their report on your sample
  • Ubiome done on a followup same sample that is shipped to them.
  • Their report on your followup sample

I see too much risk of ‘resampling until you get positive results’ to report to the customer to show that an impact was made (a.k.a. Repeat business – which is what Venture Capitalist are looking for!). This risk is expected whenever a venture capitalist is backing a company.

I would love to give a thumbs up to this firm — conceptually it is on target. However I am an evidence based person and well aware of the reality of venture capitalist backed firm from years in Information Technology. Until there is evidence — I must give a thumbs down because of the costs involved and the risk of not targeting the entire microbiome due to following a conservative approach.