The Future of Microbiome Drugs

The gut microbiome’s health writes the code for the program on which our bodies run.

Those of us who understand how great its impact can be on our overall health track bacterial populations, practice elimination diets, get our biomes tested so we know how best to supplement them, ferment away in our kitchens, and cut out processed and fried foods to avoid crowding out good bacteria with bad.

Food is medicine, as the creed goes – and that’s because food is the best defense and fortification we have for our gut microbiomes. 

It’s the way that we nourish and balance those bacterial populations, which in turn affects how tight our intestinal joints are, the integrity of our intestinal lining, and more.

It only makes sense, then, that if food is medicine for our bodies because it results in healthy gut bacteria, then healthy gut bacteria can itself be harnessed as medicine.

We’re not the first ones to have this thought.

Therapeutic and biotech companies have been toying with this model for years, really picking up speed around 2015. 

However, it seems that we really weren’t ready six years ago and many of the companies that emerged as health sector microbiome darlings crashed that year and didn’t come back.

But that didn’t mean the health industry as a whole gave up on this idea…

In fact, to some degree, we’ve already known that we can change lives by directly changing the microbial populations of microbiomes – fecal transplantation to treat gut disorders being one example.

The microbiome is often found connected to immunity and chronic illness… and 2020 made clear how vital immunity is to a thriving society. Health is a public issue. As long as viruses can infect us, it’ll be important to invest in public health, and that means research and development (among other things.)

Several health institutions (and investing institutions) are predicting that 2021 will be the year of the microbiome…

Let’s examine how.

What Is a Microbiome Drug?

When we’re talking about harnessing the power of the microbiome in therapeutics, we’re talking about using the beneficial bacterial strains in the microbiome to treat IBS, C. difficile, depression, anxiety, skin diseases, and more.

Think of it as the “bugs as drugs” movement.

The field is rapidly developing, and for a few reasons…

First, obviously there is great stabilizing power in these microbes and fungi, as the body reacts badly when those populations dwindle.

Second, there are a lot of medicines that cause an imbalance in gut bacteria, especially of the antibiotic variety, since those tend to kill bacteria indiscriminately.

And third, more time and money is being invested into preventive medicine, as we’re understanding our lifestyle’s role in the modern prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders, cancers, the allergy revolution, and more. Robust populations of certain bacteria have been shown to increase immunity and thus prevent the wear and tear we’ve long believed to be an indelible part of the human experience.

When the microbiome therapeutic industry was last boosted in 2015, the focus was largely on using the microbiome to create targeted and personalized healthcare protocols – meeting people where they were, so to speak…

Using the actual status of their bodies to make prescriptions rather than treating a symptom with its industry-approved pill.

Moving forward, that might look different…

Personalized vs Preventive

There are already several companies with recognizable household names offering to guide you in supporting your health by supporting your gut…

Betr Health (with whom we’ve collaborated on a gut health masterclass on, microbiome testing companies, and more.

Those watching the biotech investing space predict that emerging companies are going to be investing their research into preventive care. 

One company, for example, Seres Therapeutics, has several drugs in clinical trials to treat C. difficile, skin cancer, and ulcerative colitis. 

Other companies are working on drugs to combat recurrent C. diff, Chrohn’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder – all ailments that have been connected to poor gut health or dysbiotic bacterial populations.

In several promising trials, microbial warfare is used to treat secondary hyperoxaluria – a rare and dangerous renal disease.

It’s about time that mainstream Western medicine starts to harness and co-sign the power of the microbiome to heal and maintain.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this space as it develops.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.