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How Can Microbes Support Wellness And Save The Planet? Seed Health Co-Founders Explain

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The health benefits of probiotics are widely accepted, but not every probiotic on the market is created equal—and few companies are doing the work Seed Health is doing to research the benefits of microbes for both the future of human wellness and our planet. From designing a scientifically-backed symbiotic formula that actually makes it all the way to the colon to researching how to support honeybee colonies to be more resilient in the face of climate change, Seed Health is pioneering new applications of probiotics to improve human and planetary health. Here’s what Seed Health co-founders and co-CEOs Ara Katz and Raja Dhir had to share about the impactful work the company is doing in microbe research and application.

Olivia O’Bryon: The health and wellness space is full of products claiming to impact gut health. What sets your probiotics apart from others on the market?

Ara Katz and Raja Dhir, Seed Health Co-Founders: To answer this question, it's important first to understand that not all products marketed as 'probiotics' are actually probiotics, by scientific standards. Unlike other countries, the FDA categorizes probiotics as supplements and regulates them as such (generally more loosely than food or drugs). That lack of regulation, coupled with the more recent trends of gut mania, has propelled a category filled with misleading messaging, hyperbolic claims, and deviations from science. Walk into a grocery store or pharmacy, and in addition to probiotic supplements, you will find 'probiotic' tortilla chips, chocolate, beverages, home cleaning products, skincare, shampoos—the list goes on. As a result, there's a lot of confusion and skepticism about what probiotics actually are and whether there's any scientific evidence to support their efficacy.

Our mission at Seed is to bring much-needed science and education to the global category of probiotics. As a microbiome science company, our approach begins in discovery—with large biological datasets from three proprietary platforms, we use bioinformatics and computational analyses to interrogate the role of the microbiome in overall health, and to design probiotics for specific conditions and life stages. We also engineer novel delivery technologies to ensure our probiotics' viability, survivability and efficacy. And perhaps most distinct is our human clinical research—we partner with leading academic research institutions and notable Primary Investigators to validate our rationally-designed probiotic formulations through double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Our clinical research allows us to not only identify new endpoints and benefits, but also contribute advancements to the fields of microbiome and probiotic science.

Our more recent clinical work includes two completing studies on our flagship innovation, DS-01™ Daily Synbiotic, a 2-in-1 synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) formulated with 24 clinically and scientifically studied strains for systemic benefits including digestive health, cardiovascular health, dermatological health, gut immune function, gut barrier integrity, and micronutrient synthesis. Additionally, our first pediatric innovation, PDS-08™ Pediatric Daily Synbiotic, was evaluated in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrating its clinical potential in children with intermittent constipation. The findings were just published in Pediatric Research.

OO: Your website states that you are “pioneering applications of microbes to impact human and planetary health”. What does this mean to you, and why have you chosen to focus your work here?

Seed Health Co-Founders: We founded Seed Health with the belief that the microbiome (and the application of microbes) holds vast potential to shape the health of all life. Across all areas of our research, we are working to better understand the complex microbial ecosystems of our bodies, their role in key biological functions and conditions, and how we can use specific microbes to impact health—from innovations in clinically-studied probiotics to therapeutics for unmet medical needs that could become the primary standard of care.

With the belief that health is not just human, our environmental work is conducted under SeedLabs where we advance emergent research on microbial innovations that can enhance and restore ecologies impacted by anthropogenic climate change.

OO: You founded SeedLabs to enhance biodiversity and recover ecosystems impacted by human activity–can you tell us more about that work?

Seed Health Co-Founders: Our SeedLabs initiatives focus on microbial innovations with the potential to rescue and regenerate critical ecologies impacted by human activity. The honey bee, for example, is one of our most vital insect pollinators, responsible for nearly a third of our global food crops. Yet widespread pesticide use, along with climate change, disease, and habitat loss, have contributed to a stark reduction in honey bee populations over the past decade. In collaboration with our Scientific Board Member, Dr. Gregor Reid, and Seed Fellow, Brendan Daisley, we developed the award-winning BioPatty™, which includes a proprietary blend of 3 probiotic strains that bolster bee immunity, equipping them with improved resistance and adaptation to heat, infection, insecticides, pathogens, and other stressors. Currently, we are exploring applications of microbes in several other areas—from plastic degradation to soil.

OO: You have an impressive list of research partners and scientists behind you. What are some of the areas you're looking to make an impact on health?

Seed Health Co-Founders: Our Scientific Board consists of leading scientists, researchers, physicians, bioinformaticians and authors across the fields of microbiology, immunology, genetics, metabolomics, gastroenterology, pediatrics, molecular biology, and transcriptomics. Together, we identify some of the most pervasive, unmet needs for which the microbiome and microbial solutions may unlock a new framework for intervention and care.

While we started with a focus on the gut microbiome, our research pipeline has expanded to include vaginal health, skin and dermatological health, oral hygiene, pediatrics, mental health, metabolic function, and nutrition. By example, in partnership with Scientific Board Member and leading vaginal microbiome expert, Dr. Jacques Ravel, we are developing a new class of living medicines and consumer health products targeting the vaginal microbiome to impact vaginal, reproductive and urogenital health.

This year, we also announced our Gut-Brain Development Program with Board Member and gut-brain pioneer Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian of Caltech. Building on over a decade of his research, the program will develop next-generation probiotics for anxiety, depression, and overall mental well-being.

OO: What excites you the most about working in the microbiome and the future of health?

Seed Health Co-Founders: The global increase of urbanization, industrialization, and antibiotic overuse has given rise to a myriad of immune diseases, chronic disorders, and beyond. As we search for ways to prevent, remediate, and even eradicate these issues, the microbiome holds vast potential to lead to new markers for disease and health and validate new solutions for how we live and consume, offering us hope for a more sustainable future.

We are at an inflection point in microbiome research, with a convergence of advances in sequencing technologies, metabolomics, and large data sets. As we work to steward microbiome science forward, we are excited to realize the full potential of the multi-platform model we've built to take breakthrough science from discovery to market, across ecosystems of the body at various life stages, developmental windows, and health conditions.

And for each of us, the microbiome offers a new language and lens for how we live and the choices we make each day for ourselves, our families and the Earth.

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