Technology

Trusting Your Gut: The First-ever Gut Health Test For Expecting Parents and Infants

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A lot of our health is linked to our stomachs, in fact, 80% of the human immune system lies in the gut. This component of health is actually inherited from the mother at birth and is programmed in the first 1,000 days of a person’s life. Yet, to check an infant’s gut, healthcare providers and integrative health practitioners have been using gut health tests meant for adults on children, which do not allow for accurate results and can overlook a child’s gut complications.

As of October 2021, at least four in 10 school-aged children in the US were diagnosed with a chronic disease, and researchers are now turning toward early microbiome development for answers. Multiple studies and groundbreaking research have shown that the early life microbiome is a critical indicator of lifelong health in children, and could give clues on chronic conditions that may later appear. 

Early detection allows for swift restorative action, and Tiny Health, a gut health testing company, has just secured $4.5 million in funding to launch its proprietary at-home microbiome gut test to help parents monitor and optimize babies’ gut health development from conception onwards. Keeping track of an infant’s microbiome allows families to take action to reduce and reverse risks for eczema, allergies, asthma, autism, and other chronic diseases. Let’s take a look at how this company is changing the quality of life for the next generation of humanity. 

Proactive Treatment For Long-term Results

Tiny Health founder, Cheryl Sew Hoy, encountered this first-hand with her own personal experience. When she gave birth to her first child via a C-section, she suspected that her baby had a disrupted microbiome at birth as her child subsequently suffered from eczema and food allergies. Understanding the relationship between an infant’s microbiome and immune development, Cheryl strived to restore her baby’s gut and reduce the severity of allergies but there were no baby gut health tests in the market to keep track of the progress. 

Image Credit: Tiny Health

A healthy infant gut and a healthy adult gut look very different. And as healthcare providers have been using the same gut health tests for adults and children, Tiny Health developed a test to fill this gap and give parents direct access to the testing platform, specially tailored for each pediatric age group. Its Gut Health Test is also the first to use shotgun metagenomics sequencing tailored specifically for those trying to conceive, expecting moms, and babies 0-3 years of age. 

Using their proprietary state-of-the-art technology, Tiny Health is able to provide strain-level precision and a comprehensive list of all gut and vaginal microbes including bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and archaea, and their relative abundance. Every report includes a personalized review by a team of microbiome experts, including microbiologists, physicians, bioinformaticians, and entrepreneurs with backgrounds from Mayo Clinic, UCSF, Harvard Medical, John Hopkins, Stanford, Cornell, and WashU. Tiny’s evidence-based recommendations help parents improve the gut health of their children, as well as optimize their own for the benefit of their family.

Improving The Health of Future Generations

Testing kids for chronic disease early on is important, because these ailments not only affect their quality of life when they are at an age when they should be carefree but also significantly impacts their livelihood and longevity. 

“Our primary customers are parents who are looking to understand the root causes of their child’s colic, sleep struggles, digestive or immune-mediated issues… not just be handed more prescriptions,” says founder Cheryl Sew Hoy. “Parents can be empowered by a better understanding of what’s going on in their baby’s gut, giving them greater control over their family’s health, guided by the latest research. We believe that our evidence-based insights can help improve the health outcomes of future generations.” 

The company started with over 3,000 baby samples to inform reference ranges and condition biomarkers. Other existing stool tests use adult reference ranges, which paint quite a different picture when used on babies and young children. As Tiny Health grows, its sample base grows with it as they strive to assemble the largest repository of early-life microbiome data, highlighting the connection between mothers’ and babies’ microbiome health. Tiny Health also offers vaginal microbiome health tests for pregnant women, as well as for those trying to conceive.

Tiny Health’s latest funding round was led by TheVentureCity, a global early-stage venture fund investing in product-centric startups across the US, Europe, and LatAm. 

“Tiny Health is the first-ever startup to develop a gut test specifically for expecting parents and infants,” says Laura González-Estéfani, Founder and CEO of TheVentureCity. “We see it as an untapped niche with great potential for growth in a $12.5 billion market that will flourish over the next few years. Tiny’s consumer platform is also in a unique position to generate potentially groundbreaking research on infants’ microbiomes, which could contribute to better prediction, prevention, and treatment down the line.”

Tiny Health’s efforts will help to record needed evidence that can help to accelerate scientists’ understanding of certain biomarkers and their role in a healthy body. Tiny Health has also built an extensive repository of evidence-based recommendations, personalized for each user—- such as foods they could add to their diet, or types of probiotics they could take. The company is currently working on an annual membership product to offer parents year-round support for their child and the whole family’s gut health. 

Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.

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