Health start-up uBiome cuts more than 50 jobs

Key Points
  • uBiome CFO Joel Jung and CEO Jessica Richman acknowledged the layoffs.
  • The company said it is looking to realign its operations to expand into new areas, including therapeutics.
  • uBiome has raised more than $100 million in venture capital for its health tests.
uBiome co-founder and co-CEO Jessica Richman, who was placed on administrative leave in May 2019 pending an board investigation into the start-ups billing practices.
Reuters | Mike Blake

UBiome, a start-up that provides a test for people to monitor the health of the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the body, has eliminated about than 10 percent of its staff in the US and additional positions overseas.

The company, which has raised more than $109 million in venture funding, recently laid off over 50 of its 300 employees. 30 were let go in the U.S., and a further 25 people from international offices, the company said.

The cuts were confirmed by Joel Jung, uBiome's chief financial officer, and CEO Jessica Richman. Jung told CNBC that the company is shifting to more of a focus on drugs and partnerships with pharmaceutical developers.

The company made the decision "to realign operations to set us up, and even add staff, as we expand our focus in therapeutics," Jung said.

To date, uBiome has developed a direct-to-consumer test to analyze the human microbiome, meaning it provides information to people about their gut health. The company began with an $89 test, called Explorer, which offers some insights into things like the amount of a specific type of bacteria in the gut and in other sites in exchange for a stool sample.

In recent years, it has unveiled new products that can be billed to insurers, including tests for sexually transmitted infections, flu pathogens and disease-carrying microbes in the gut.

Initial funding came through a $350,000 crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo more than five years ago, which was particularly popular with the so-called "quantified self" community. The company has since raised money from 8VC, a firm started by Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, as well as Y Combinator.