Interview: Anuradha Acharya
"Our at-home microbiome test is designed to help people understand how gut microbiome influences their overall health"  
Gunjan Sharma|
Monday, November 13, 2023


Anuradha Acharya, the founder of MapMyGenome, is a serial entrepreneur who strongly believes in utilizing genome knowledge to create personalised health plans. Recently, she introduced MapMy Biome, an at-home microbiome test designed to analyse the genetic makeup of the gut microbiome, offering individuals insights to enhance their gut health. In an interview with Gunjan Sharma, she elaborates on how this test can significantly contribute to overall health improvement.  


Q1. Please tell us about your company’s work in gut microbiome research and its products? 


At MapmyGenome, we use genomics to personalize health and well-being. Our at-home DNA tests and diagnostic genomic tests provide DNA-based insights that empower consumers, physicians, and health service providers to create personalized health journeys. 

In other words, we help people understand their unique genetic make-up and how it influences their healthspan.  

The rapid growth in personalized medicine prompted us to found MapmyGenome in 2013. Over the years, we have evolved into a full-stack genomics company. Our focus is on gut health and longevity within the preventive genomics space. Our thriving clinical genomics division enables medical professionals to use our tests to solve the diagnostic odysseys of their patients. 

Gut microbiome research is a crucial area of focus for us, because we recognize the significant impact that the trillions of microorganisms in our digestive system have on overall health, especially longevity or healthy aging. 

We recently launched MapmyBiome, which focuses on gut microbiome diversity. This analysis includes insights into the diversity of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc., and their functional potential. Based on the gut microbiome’s test, there will be personalized recommendations for improving gut health through diet, lifestyle, and supplementation.  

MapmyBiome uses cutting-edge shotgun sequencing technology, a method which involves randomly breaking up the genome into small DNA fragments that are then sequenced individually, to analyse the stool samples and understand the gut microdiversity. We also use advanced bioinformatics and machine learning algorithms to interpret the data and generate comprehensive reports. This data gives personalized guidance to our customers on how to improve their gut health and overall well-being. 


Q2. How does the gut microbiome impact human health? Could you explain the scientific basis behind the gut microbiome and its role in digestion, immunity, and other relevant areas? 


The gut microbiome begins to influence our body the moment we are born. The gut is home to about 70% of the body's immune cells.  A healthy gut means we have a stronger immune system, a better mood, effective digestion, and a healthy brain and heart.  

A variety of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel diseases etc, can be linked to low-grade inflammation in the gut. Knowing your gut microbiome can make people aware of the importance of the food choices they make . 


Q3. What unique approaches or technologies does your company employ to study or manipulate the gut microbiome? 


We use shotgun metagenomics sequencing, which allows researchers to sample all genes in all organisms present in a given complex sample. This method enables microbiologists to evaluate bacterial diversity and detect the abundance of microbes in various environments. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing approach can detect a wide range of microbes, including bacteria, and non-bacterial species (archaea, fungi, worms, viruses, and more.) Moreover, our test provides detailed species and even strain-level classification, ensuring the most comprehensive and accurate results for your gut microbiota analysis.  

Shotgun metagenomics sequencing is better than 16S rRNA sequencing, a common method for identifying bacteria present within a sample down to the genus and/or species level. It is increasingly favored and used more commonly.


Please elaborate how?

16s rRNA sequencing looks at only a single gene -  16s ribosomal RNA(rRNA) gene which is present in bacteria and some archaea.  

 Although 16s rRNA sequencing provides information on all  bacterial species,  

  1. It doesn’t provide information on non-bacterial species like fungi, viruses etc. 
  2. 16s rRNA provides limited functional information (“what are these microbes doing?”) about microbial communities. 
  3. Less effective in finding non-abundant species when compared to Shotgun metagenomics sequencing. 


How do you see the gut microbiome industry evolving in the coming years, and what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate? 


We are already seeing a growing interest in gut microbiome tests from consumers and healthcare professionals alike, and this is only going to increase as we learn more about the important role that the gut microbiome plays in our overall health and well-being. 

In recent years, researchers have continued to explore the role of the gut microbiome in longevity or healthy aging. Studies have shown that centenarians (people who live to be 100 years old or older) tend to have more diverse and stable gut microbiomes than younger adults. This suggests that a healthy gut microbiome may be important for promoting longevity. This is one of the areas MapmyGenome focuses on now. 

Another trend I see is the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in gut microbiome research and development. AI is being used to analyze large datasets of microbiome data to identify new patterns and relationships. This information can then be used to develop new and more effective microbiome interventions. 

We can expect to see the development of new and innovative microbiome-based products and services, such as personalized probiotics, prebiotics, and other dietary supplements. We may also see the development of new microbiome-based diagnostic tools and treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions. 

One challenge is that the science of the gut microbiome is still relatively new, and there is still much that we don't know. This can make it difficult to develop effective microbiome interventions. 

Another challenge is that the gut microbiome is a complex system, and it is not always easy to predict how it will respond to different interventions. This is why it is important to conduct rigorous clinical trials to ensure that new microbiome interventions are safe and effective. 

How do you ensure the safety and effectiveness of products or therapies that involve the gut microbiome? 


When we developed MapmyBiome, we ensured these three key facts--first, we conducted rigorous trials internally. This allowed us to assess their safety and effectiveness in a real-world setting; Second,  our team of scientists and bioinformaticians ensured that our product MapmyBiome is based on the latest scientific evidence. Finally, we adhere to high-quality manufacturing standards for our at-home sample collection kits. We also provide comprehensive counseling to clients regarding the results of their microbiome tests.  




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