Radhika Gupta C’19 W’19 interned at Whole Biome in San Francisco, CA

2016-17 Startup Internship Award Winner  supported by the Rosalind WG’76 and Roy WG’76 Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund

This summer, I was part of True Ventures’ True Entrepreneur Corps Fellowship program. True Ventures is a VC firm based out of the Bay Area, whose portfolio consists of companies like Fitbit, Handshake, and Blue Bottle Coffee. Each year, True organizes a class of approximately 15 students from all over the world to delve deep into the worlds of VC and entrepreneurship. Each fellow gets paired with one of True’s 120+ portfolio companies based on the needs of the company and the skills of the fellow. I had the privilege of being paired with a biotech company in San Francisco called Whole Biome.

Whole Biome (~25 employees) is innovating in the microbiome space. Their initial technology allowed them to view each individual’s microbiome and what they found was that there are trends in biochemical and metabolic pathways that may be linked to particular microbial compositions. For example, they are currently working to develop a medical food that increases butyrate production in the gut microbiome to be used in the treatment of metabolic syndrome and other diseases.

While at Whole Biome, I was working directly under the direction of the CEO Colleen Cudcliffe (colleen.cudcliffe@wholebiome.com). I spent a bit of time reading and synthesizing clinical papers linking butyrate and metabolic syndrome. I also looked at other comparable medical foods and assessed their go-to-launch strategy based on their sequence of white paper and clinical publications. This was particularly useful in identifying the criteria that both patients and physicians look for when up taking a new product, particularly one that is classified as a medical food. The reason Whole Biome is developing a medical food is for regulatory reasons… it must be taken under the supervision of a physician; however, the clinical trials don’t undergo as harsh scrutiny by the FDA. The categorization as a medical food affects all aspects of the discovery pipeline. Whole Biome believes that a medical food backed by a series of small, data-producing clinical trials will help bring our product to market fast without compromising the clinical efficacy for our patients.

In preparation for the next set of clinical trials set to begin with medical clinics across the country, I was looking into particular patient populations within the category of metabolic syndrome. This involved assessing their unmet need and current treatment options. My work was influential in adding patient groups to this clinical trial. In addition, I explored ways in which our product could be used in combination with other existing products for these patients based on the predicted synergy (sourced data from various papers to come up with this proposition).

The most rewarding part of the work was seeing the integration of computer science and tech into a biological innovation pipeline to automate and optimize processes ranging from data collection and data analysis to manufacturing of the product (a pill). It was also cool to interact directly with the Board of Directors (Medical advisory board, investors, lawyers), CEO, CTO, CFO, CSO, COO, and the rest of the Whole Biome team on a regular basis. Overall, it was a really really really awesome experience to see and be a part of all aspects of an early-stage biotech company on the west coast, especially because I hope to have my own biotech/health tech company one day.