It sounds like a preposterous idea: Collect a sample of every type of bacteria that lives in the human gut. But that’s the goal of Bernat Olle, an MIT-trained chemical engineer. Over the past three years, the Cambridge biotech startup he runs, Vedanta Biosciences, has assembled a menagerie of some 60,000 bacteria types.
They came from the digestive systems of 220 healthy people who donated fecal samples in countries from the Netherlands to Papua New Guinea. Now they live in suspended animation in ice-caked freezers kept at minus-80 degrees Celsius, poised to one day be used in drugs.