Inspired living

A Q&A with Professor Phil Hugenholtz, co-founder of Microba

WellBeing speaks with Phil Hugenholtz from Microba

Credit: Microba

We speak with Professor Phil Hugenholtz, co-founder of Microba. Offering in-depth gut microbiome testing and analysis, Microba can help to discover your unique microbiome, how it affects your gut health and how you can achieve a better balance between desirable and less desirable microorganisms in your gut.

What was your initial vision for Microba?  

The vision we have for our work at Microba is to improve lives by providing a deeper understanding of the gut microbiome (community of bacteria living in the gut) using rigorous scientific approaches. Customers have the option to contribute to global research by opting-in to Microba’s Future Insights research program. Using this de-identified data, Microba is currently building the world’s largest database of gut microbiome samples and associated health and lifestyle data. As this database grows, we are using machine learning and other approaches to identify significant associations between specific microorganisms and genes which can accurately predict different disease states. This data-driven approach allows Microba to identify promising therapeutic leads and to develop non-invasive diagnostic tests, quickly progressing towards our mission of creating life-changing healthcare products.

Tell us more about Microba and what you’ve learned so far?

We can learn quickly and identify new healthcare solutions by making use of big datasets. Microba is a Brisbane-based company providing analysis of the gut microbiome with world-leading metagenomic sequencing technology. We enable Australians to explore the bacteria in their gut and how it may be impacting their health, work with health care practitioners to assist their patients, and provide data analysis to research clients.

Where did the name Microba come from?

One of our bioinformaticians, Adam, came up with it. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a name that hasn’t been used before! But in the end, we’re very happy with Microba because it’s simple and easy to remember and points to our key business – microbes!

What is your personal definition of health? 

My personal definition is that you have all of your biological operating systems functioning normally. I also like the wiki definition – free from illness and injury.

What are your three top tips for inviting more health and wellness into your life, especially regarding our gut health?

The best tip is to reduce stress. To do this, get your sleep, exercise regularly and don’t work too hard. Also make sure you are eating enough fibre-rich foods and avoid processed food.  All of these will keep your gut microbiome in top shape.

What are some key foods that promote good gut bacteria?

Food containing fibre is a big one because that fuels your gut microbiome which keeps you healthy. Amazingly, we eat only a 10th of the amount of fibre our pre-agricultural ancestors ate, so we’ve been slowly starving our microbiomes. Eat more fibre!

What’s next for Microba?  

Our plan is to expand into a number of international markets including the US and Asia by 2020 and bring our first diagnostic products to market and first therapeutics in clinical trials in the next 12 to 18 months. These are ambitious goals, but we feel they are realistic given the strong microbial signals emerging from the Microba database together with a world-leading scientific and business team to action these plans.


Sophie Flecknoe

Sophie Flecknoe surrounds herself with good food and good company and is deeply interested in health, travel and style. She also has two cheeky cavoodles named Maggie and Cherry.