The Story and Science of Going with Your Gut (Microbiome) with Momo Vuyisich

With all this talk about health in the news, we can be quick to point fingers at one thing. But the truth is, we are under a constant assault from many environmental and dietary stressors that can impact our risk for short-term and chronic disease, and many of them stem right from your digestive system.

This episode’s guest struggled through his own journey of chronic disease, plagued by generalized recommendations and all-too-common treatments. It was only by treating himself as the individual he truly was, that he was able to overcome and heal himself. Now as the Chief Science Officer for Viome, a company that believes in treating the person and not the disease, Momo Vuyisich leads a new frontier toward preventative medicine: treating what ails the gut – and the gut microbiome – to holistically heal yourself from the inside out.

This is the story and science of going with your gut (microbiome) with Momo Vuyisuch.

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The Transcript

Disclaimer: Transcripts are prepared by a transcription service. Refer to full video above for exact wording.

Caspar Szulc: 00:01
Hello everybody, this Caspar Szulc, co-founder of Innovative Medicine. Before we jump into this episode, I wanted to share some interesting research that was just put out and we’ve been following. A recent article published just last week in Cell Discovery suggests mTOR inhibition may be a novel therapeutic approach to the pandemic. If you’re not familiar with mTOR, its a protein known to regulate cellular lifespan and increase cell replication. The problem is that the virus, like many viruses before it, hijacks mTOR and uses it to replicate. Why is this important? Because research also shows that another protein called sirtuin 1, or SIRT1, is a natural regulator of mTOR, repressing it and slowing down a virus. You’re probably asking, OK, how do we now use that information, and what’s the only direct way to activate SIRT1 so we can slow down a virus’s replication in the body? The answer is NAD+. That’s why many doctors are now turning to NAD+ IVs and supplements like our own Nadovim, to boost SIRT1 levels and slow down an infection enough to give your body a better chance of recovery. We’re currently running a special at for 20% off one-time and subscription orders of Nadovim, so if you’re looking for new ways to keep your body as strong and resilient during these times, it’s worth a look. Alright, now onto the show.

If you’ve been speaking with people while quarantined, and I hope so because total isolation is not great for your mental state, then you’ve probably been hearing what I’m hearing – that it’s a strange and scary time. And while that may be true and we’re all just trying to make sense of things during the pandemic, I really believe that empowering yourself with knowledge can mitigate some of that fear and help you gain control in these uncertain times. And the truth of the matter is we are under assault from pathogens like viruses all the time. In fact, we have a whole society of them living within us. And as with any society, if you treat them poorly, they will revolt.

But we’re going to show you in this episode of Your Health Your Story how to keep that society happy, and you healthy. That’s why we’re bringing on a truly visionary guest today. Someone that is aiming to revolutionize healthcare from “symptoms management” to truly preventative medicine. And he’s gonna share the science behind how we can do that, specifically when it comes to where so much of our societies within us reside – the gut. He currently serves as the Chief Science Officer for Viome, a company very much like Innovative Medicine that believes in treating the person and not the disease, and knows firsthand about how important the microbiome is. This is the story, and science, of going with your gut with Momo Vuyisich.

Caspar Szulc: 03:09
Momo, you’re the co-founder and Chief Science Officer over at Viome. You’ve spent time at Los Alamos National Laboratory with the applied genomics team. And, even a fun fact, you’re a pilot! There are so many places we could start with this discussion, but I really want to begin with your story on how you cured an incurable disease. Can you tell us about your personal health struggles and how you were able to heal yourself?

Momo Vuyisich: 03:34
Yeah, so I started developing rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis in my mid-twenties, had lots of joint issues, had restless legs syndrome had, sacroiliac joint pain and a carpal tunnel syndrome and soft tissue, sort of bruising lots and lots of complex with doctors called autoimmune. Right. And so I was diagnosed with essentially autoimmune disease and was simply consuming NSAIDs for about 10 years. But the condition got worse and worse progressively. And so in my late thirties, I decided to try these diets. And so I spent about three years trying different diets. For different diets, I stayed on for different amounts of time depending on what kind of hope they gave me the first few weeks. But none of them worked. And once I tried the keto diet, which I grew up on a Mediterranean diet, so I didn’t want to try the keto diet.

I really wanted to not have to do that. But I tried keto diet and that was the last diet I tried because, after three months of keto, I realized I was losing my memory and I was losing it badly enough that I thought, whoa, this could be due to keto. So I discontinued and it’s taken now seven-ish years or something like that to recover from that. And so trying these diets that are out there, there’s simply they came out out of someone trying something and it worked for them and they now say, well, this works for everyone. Right? And that’s really the fallacy of this entire field that absolutely drove me nuts, right? That it’s like a religion. Everyone’s got their religion and they think that’s the religion that everyone should believe in their God. Right? This is the same thing. So none of those diets worked for me.

Unfortunately. And as a scientist, I dug into the literature and read essentially every single paper out there, every single study over the last 40 years that connected anything to do with nutrition and human disease. And my keywords that I was looking for were low-grade inflammation. I clearly had low-grade inflammation. That was destroying my body from the inside. And in late 2014, I found a paper that really made me think, Ooh, this could be it. And the paper was published by a professor at UC San Diego, Dr. Ajit Varki Where he identified a specific molecule that is produced by all mammals. But is not produced by humans. It’s a type of a Salic acid and humans used to, as mammals are able to produce this molecule. But a couple of million years ago, we lost the ability. Our gene for producing that molecule was inactivated and the molecule is called Neu5 GC.

And so I read about that and I read the mechanism about its action and the low-grade inflammation. And in fact that paper was one o the pieces of evidence that that triggered the WHO to designate red meat as a potential carcinogen because it causes this low-grade inflammation. Anyways, I figured, hey, this is likely it based on my prior dietary consumption and so on. And so I discontinued all foods that come from mammals. So mammals are obviously a class of animals that produce milk. So that includes all red meats, including pork, that includes all dairy. And so I discontinued and because I knew the biochemistry of this molecule that it stays in our body for more than a month. I knew that I had to be a hundred percent strict and I had to do that for at least two months.

“And so this journey of not only helping myself but also learning about how important the nonhuman part of our human is. Nutrition and microbiome are actually a bigger part of who we are. They contribute more to our physiology and our health and disease than our own genes.”

And so I did that. And so this is, I think one of the challenges with the diet is that if you have a trigger food that once you consume it in one meal and it triggers you for a whole month. Like in my case you can’t have cheat meals. You can’t relax. You can’t go to a party. I was 100% strict. Meaning that if I didn’t know with 100% certainty that there was no mammalian food in my meal, I would simply skip a meal. It’s that simple, right? I was that strict because I was headed for a wheelchair. My right hip was locking up at that time, meaning that there were days that I just could not function every single thing that I did in my life, I had to think about should I do it and if I am going to do it, how am I going to do it?

And after I do it, what kind of treatment do I need to apply? Do I need ice packs? Do I need ibuprofen? Do I need Naproxen? And because my stomach was hurting really badly from Nsaids I have to alternate all of these different NSAIDs in order to not develop ulcers. Right? And so I was in a really bad situation. So I was driven to do this. And after two months, my symptoms essentially went away. Some of my joints, like my hip joint, was hurting. My hand joints were still hurting but I knew this was it. And so I persisted and I healed completely, completely over a period of a year. So even my right hip that was in the worst shape, even though it took about a year to heal, it completely healed.

Meaning that since then I’ve climbed some big mountains since then and not only do I no longer have friction and pain, it’s just simply performing as if I was 16 years old. And so this journey of not only helping myself but also learning about how important the nonhuman part of our human is. Nutrition and microbiome are actually a bigger part of who we are. They contribute more to our physiology and our health and disease than our own genes. That realization made me realize we now can develop the technology and actually study the human body like it’s not been studied before and we can actually solve this problem with chronic diseases. As you know, there is no known root cause or cure for any of the chronic diseases in the 21st century. That’s simply not acceptable. We have all the technology to actually solve this problem. And that’s exactly what my company is about. And that’s what my science research for the previous five years before starting Viome was all focused on.

Caspar Szulc: 10:19
Right. And it’s a wonderful story because you took the power back, you were able to cure yourself through understanding things in a different viewpoint really. Now would you say that conventional medicine and conventional wisdom itself sort of failed you? So out of that you had to go in a different direction for a more personalized and actually a more advanced scientific approach?

Momo Vuyisich: 10:42
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the modern medicine, looks for symptoms that allowed them to prescribe medication. That’s basically what it is. They’re absolutely not there to cure you and tit’s not because they’re mean people or they have evil ideas. It’s just that they are not capable. They’re not. Pharmaceutical companies have no interest in curing you. They literally have zero interest. No pharmaceutical company is going to go to venture capital investor and say, Hey, we’re going to get rid of autoimmune disease next year. And after that our income is going to go down to zero. No one has ever done that. Right? That’s not the reality. And modern medicine is using pharmaceutical solutions and so we’ve created a system that has no incentive to actually cure, no incentive. That is what modern healthcare is about. And that’s why today $3 trillion of the $3.5 trillion that we spend in the United States alone on all diseases, $3 trillion is devoted to chronic diseases.

We are managing chronic diseases. And for me in particular, when I went to the doctors and they diagnosed me, they basically said, we can give you all of these very expensive drugs that have massive side effects that will slow the disease down. That is the best they can do. They absolutely cannot stop it and they absolutely cannot reverse it. They will only slow it down. And so they said instead of going to a wheelchair in your forties you will likely go in your fifties so we can delay that. And to me, that’s just shocking when you look at the costs, the runaround, the tests and the side effects. It’s shocking that that state of the art today for autoimmune conditions, that we don’t have a system in place to actually figure out what is the root cause.

Caspar Szulc: 12:35
Yeah, it is shocking and it’s something I’ve seen my whole life you know, growing up around doctors, my father being one and being frustrated and going into different directions because of everything you just said. What is it that you think is holding us back as a society, as seeing what you saw and being able to say enough is enough. Shouldn’t we be looking at other things like the microbiome and looking at companies like Viome?

Momo Vuyisich: 13:00
Yeah. I think the entire system in modern society is set up the wrong way. And I’ll tell you why. I think that. In academia, we have the most brilliant minds, the hardest working people, the most well-intentioned people, well-funded people that are incentivized the wrong way. Which means that I was an academic for 12 years. I was a scientist and like every other scientist, my incentive is when am I going to publish the next paper so that I can write the next grant? That is my incentive. That is what I think 24 seven as a scientist, I’m programmed to think that way and the system incentivizes me.

Of course, I was different because I understood that that was the incentive and that was the wrong incentive. I do not want to retire from my long scientific career and tell someone that my accomplishment in life was X number of papers. That is absolutely not what I want to do and I encourage every single academic to think about what is it that they have this one opportunity, they’re super smart, super hardworking, they’re well funded. Why are they wasting it on publishing papers that someone may or may not read? That is really one of the biggest wastes in our society today that we’re literally taking the cream of the crop, the best part of our society, giving them lots of money and in return, we’re getting papers that are sitting in the cloud that someone may or may not read. Right.

Have you heard of the Manhattan project? So we need to have a Manhattan project for each chronic disease, meaning we need to have a Manhattan project for multiple sclerosis. For Alzheimer’s for Parkinson’s, for diabetes, for obesity. For every single one of these put together the smartest people in the field give them the same amount of money, but the output is not papers. The output is to help people prevent these diseases. That is what you have to do. Right? If we were to do that 20 years ago, this problem would have been solved. [inaudible]. What’s frustrating to me as a scientist is that we are continuing to spin the wheels and to waste money on not helping people and waste money on focused on papers, just papers, paper. Because if you don’t publish papers, of course, you’re not going to get grants and your scientific career may end. And so that is the incentive.

Caspar Szulc: 15:31
I love the idea, of having these Manhattan projects that the best minds and different types of minds, right? All coming together and the end piece being results. And I think what you’d see is across the board many patterns happening of how these chronic diseases come about and one of those patterns, of course, we’ll link back probably to the microbiome and gut health. And we know as a society now that gut health and immune function are so strongly related, but can you explain how exactly the gut microbiome impacts our immune system? Immune response.

Momo Vuyisich: 16:09
Yeah. So that’s obviously the core question. So I want people to understand that the human body is not human. The human body is mostly not human. Our physiology and our health and our healthy function of every single cell in our body, whether that’s a kidney cell, immune cell, brain cell, absolutely depends on the functions of the gut microbiome and potentially other microbiomes depends.

That has now been established. That’s no longer a myth or a mystery or belief that has been established. The deepest depths of every neuron in your brain, every immune cell in your body, every function in your body is absolutely dependent on the functions of the microbiome. And I’m going to emphasize this term’s functions. And so let’s talk about neurotransmitters, right? 90% of serotonin is produced in your gut, not in your brain. And that was recently discovered just in the last few years. What we also recently discovered is that serotonin production in the gut is stimulated by the gut microbiome. It is not produced on our own. It is stimulated, which means that that chemical stimulus that comes from the microbiome is required for the production of serotonin. So think about it. It’s the chemical signaling from the micro bio who our own body that makes us healthy and has solid mental health.

Now, the chemical stimulus is the key that I want the audience to understand. It comes from any bacteria that are able to produce that chemical stimulus. Okay? So when humans gave names to bacteria and now everyone in the field has been trying to correlate certain diseases with certain names. That’s the fundamental problem in this field so far is that you’re trying to say if you have this bacterium, you have this disease and if you don’t have this bacterium, you don’t have, this is not infectious diseases. These are not pathogens. This is a chronic disease. It’s caused by many different bacteria producing or failing to produce certain chemical signals that allow us to function normally. And so at Viome, we have completely departed from this notion that it’s the names of bacteria that make a difference and we’ve moved over to the functions. And so there are two concepts that I want everyone to understand.

The first one is that I already mentioned a chemical signal has to go from a bacterium to ourselves in order to produce serotonin. There are many bacteria that are capable of producing this chemical. And so trying to find one is is is chasing after a red herring. First of all, and second of all, studying DNA as everyone else has been, means that all you can say to someone is, Hey, your gut microbiome has the potential to stimulate serotonin production to make you healthy. They can absolutely never say whether your microbiome is actually producing that chemical. They can never say that DNA sequencing just tells you the potential. And by telling someone, Hey, your gut microbiome has the potential to make your mental health go away. Well, that doesn’t help me at all. I want to know what is it that I need to eat in order for that potential to be turned into action.

And so that’s exactly what need we need. We need to study the functions of the microbiome, not the potential of the microbiome. And then we need to realize those functions using nutrition. So let me walk you through how this works. Let’s say that our immune system inflammation, everyone’s heard of inflammation. Let’s say that our inflammation is controlled by two chemicals produced by the microbiome. One is called lipopolysaccharide or LPS for short. And that is so-called a pro-inflammatory chemical. So it increases inflammation. It tells my immune system, Hey, you must have an infection. Something’s wrong. Fire up all the engines and let’s destroy everything, right? And that’s not what we want. If it’s unnecessary, the other chemicals called butyrate and butyrate calm the immune system down, tells the immune system, Hey, everything’s normal here. Calm down. Stop destroying yourself. Right? So let’s assume that your microbiome in some sort of a minimalistic stage has only one microorganism.

Well, let’s say it has two microorganisms. Sorry, it has two microorganisms. One microorganism is going to take food from quinoa, convert them into lipopolysaccharide, and that’s what it allows it to live. That’s how it harvests its energy. The other organism is going to take food from apples, so molecules found in apples and convert them into butyrate. Okay, let’s just say that that’s what we find, that our test finds that. Now, of course, we’re going to tell you to eat apples and not quinoa because apples allow your immune, your gut microbiome to produce beneficial biochemical. And we’re going to tell you to avoid eating quinoa because molecules in quinoa allow your microbiome to produce a bad biochemical. Does that make sense? So in other words, we not only understand what your microbiome is capable of doing, but we understand how to turn on and off functions with molecules found in foods

So when our AI algorithms make food recommendations, they don’t think in terms of rice and wheat and apples and quinoa. They think in terms of chemistry, in terms of the molecules that we need to provide to your microbiome, such that your microbiome, and I keep emphasizing your because for a different person it will be different. We give your microbiome molecules that your microbiome is going to use to produce beneficial chemicals that my physiology requires and we’re going to deny your microbiome. Again, I’m emphasizing your microbiome. We’re going to deny, deny it molecules that it will use to produce bad biochemicals, right? So we’re modulating the functions of your microbiome. And then when the computer says, okay, these are the molecules you should be consuming, these are the molecules you should not be consuming. Then the computer maps those molecules into foods in order to give you a list of what we eat, what not to eat.

But the computer doesn’t think about foods because foods are complex. Every food has many different kinds of molecules and so it has the computer is going to have to make a decision later, which foods you should consume to what degree based on how many beneficial molecules it has and how many molecules it has. Your microbiome is going to used to produce bad biochemicals and how many of molecules it has, the your microbiome is going to use to produce beneficial backup.

Caspar Szulc: 23:12
Right? And this is sort of a tenant that we speak a lot about in personalized integrative medicine is this idea of true specificity for you versus the potentiality of a group. Right? And a lot of medicine loves to go into, well, you’re in this group, you’ll have this risk, let’s do this, then wait and see. As opposed to a much more personalized, and I would say a much more scientific approach is you and the specificity, prioritization, all these other pieces of how you will get better. How you will again heal rather than manage. So very good points. So that’s exactly the next point we should discuss and that is that every single time today that you read a paper or a study or some kind of an article that says coffee is good for you or coffee’s bad for you, it was done and reported for an average of the population in that study. Right. It’s never done for individuals. And we have to get away from that and so today if we take a hundred random people at volume and pro and analyze their stool sample, hundred people will get a hundred different diets. There is extremely small chance that two of them will have the same diet. Extremely small chance. We’ve seen a few examples of couples who’ve been married for a very long time who have essentially identical microbiomes. They will get essentially identical diets. Otherwise, everyone has different microbiome. So they’re going to get different diets. And that’s really where we need to go. And let me go back to these averages of humans, right? So let’s look at the glycemic index. I think everyone knows what glycemic index if they’re not sure, they can go Google it. But if you Google glycemic index, Google will return a table that tells you how high the blood sugar will be spiked by each food listed in the table. Okay? The problem with that table is that it’s made for an average human and you put 50 people in the room, not a single one of those is that average human.

Momo Vuyisich: 25:20
So that table doesn’t actually apply to anyone. It only applies to an average human. So what we’ve done at Viome is we’ve actually performed a very large study where we fed a group of 550 people, a total of 30,000 meals, and we measured, we didn’t model, we did an Infer, we actually measured the glycemic response or the glucose response in blood, right? And we collected also their stool samples. And so we use machine learning to figure out exactly the glycemic index for every single one of those people. And we now have a model, it’s a machine-learned model that’s built into our app that has 80 to 90% accuracy in determining your response in terms of blood sugar, to every single carb-rich food. And so instead of you saying, well, I’m going to go on a ketogenic diet because I have high blood sugar, now you can actually say, I’m not afraid of eating carbs.

I know which carbs I can eat, right? So that’s really precision nutrition that we’ve brought to the market where you do a very large study with a lot of very smart people with a lot of technology and you’re converted into actionable information and it’s not an average human. It is you. And for every other person, like my wife and me, we have to eat different carbs. And so sure, quinoa and potatoes I can eat all the potatoes I want, she cannot, she can have all the quinoa she wants. I cannot. And so when we make dinner we will make potatoes for me and quinoa for her. It’s how it goes.

Caspar Szulc: 26:53
Right? And so you have that personalized diet. You have an understanding of what’s going on inside of you, not the basis. I had spoken with Guru before, the CTO there. And that technology is really powering you to have more and more personalized information at your hands. So it really is a wonderful thing. Now I do want to bring up something that’s very topical and get your opinions on this because we’re going through this pandemic right now. Do you believe it’s exposed flaws in the way we view immune health and that we probably got away from what is considered a healthy microbiome?

Momo Vuyisich: 27:33
Well, that’s a tough question. A very complex question. But, unfortunately in the United States, in particular, we have lost a lot of microbial functions that we have evolved to depend on, and so that’s one of the problems. The other problem is that we have so many comorbidities due to that, right? So because we’ve lost that, those healthy functions, we’ve now developed so many different chronic diseases and our immune system, is simply struggling to figure out what’s going on. Right? And then to add fuel to the fire, we have introduced essentially synthetic diet, right? If you look at today, the FDA published has a list of synthetic molecules that are allowed by law to be added to our foods. And that list is 10,000 molecules long, 10,000. So today the food industry is allowed to add 10,000 synthetic chemicals that our immune system has never seen in the history of human living.

Momo Vuyisich: 28:38
Right? And it has to deal with that. And of course, the immune system is super confused because it’s just, it’s inflamed due to dysbiosis in the gut microbiome. It’s bombarded with all these chemicals and we have diseases, right? That’s a completely artificial situation and that’s why we’re not prepared for this disease.

Caspar Szulc: 29:00
Yup. And, and since we are talking about the microbiome and it goes beyond back to you’re correct, we’re talking about viruses that are in the gut health and how does a virus affect gut microbiomes?

Momo Vuyisich: 29:22
Yeah, let’s talk about that. So first of all, viruses are a very large group of microorganisms. And by the way, viruses are the most numerous microorganism on the planet, just so you know. Which is pretty cool. And there are three types of viruses. There are viruses that infect humans. There are viruses that infect plants and viruses that infect bacteria.

So these are human viruses, plant viruses, and bacteria phages. So bacterial viruses are called bacterial phages or for short, phages. And phages have already been shown to play a very significant role in our microbiome because they essentially reshape the microbiome. If you introduce, for example, a few specific phages into your system, you may significantly rearrange your microbiome without doing anything else. Plant viruses are, are sort of a new frontier in our understanding of what’s going on. And so plant viruses for decades in every textbook, every textbook in molecular biology and neurology says plant viruses are not capable of infecting humans and therefore we don’t care. Right? Well, it turns out that some plant viruses and potentially many of them are using humans as a vector. So just like malaria uses a mosquito to spread itself, a plant virus can cause a localized infection in the intestines where it can replicate or multiply.

And when we poop elsewhere, we would shed it. And so it basically is using us as a vector. It’s been shown in a study that infection by these plant viruses causes inflammation, right? And we’ve seen that from our own data that we have not published yet. And that’s why when we see that someone has a plant virus, then we recommend that they, avoid those foods. And we state that to a person and then human viruses obviously are a huge problem. So norovirus would be a human virus that causes a very significant shift in the gut microbiome, right? Because it causes weeks of diarrhea and now we’re seeing with it that it can establish an infection in the intestines and cause gastrointestinal issues for a couple of weeks and the virus is using us again as a vector because even after our respiratory disease stops, we can have a two-week-long infection in the intestines where we’re shedding the virus and continuing a transmission cycle were via a fecal-oral route we can infect other people

Caspar Szulc: 31:44
Got it. Now one of the things we were studying at Innovative Medicine, we were looking at viral infection, especially when it’s so common right now in a very topical thing is how it replicates you usually hijacking mTOR proteins. Correct. And, and we also researched the importance of Sert1 to regulate that and downplay the mTor and repress a virus’s ability to replicate. We know, especially since we specialize a lot in NAD+ therapy, that that is one of the best ways to naturally boost SIRT1 levels. But can you tell us how important is NAD+ to gut health? Because I’ve never actually really looked into that. I know a lot about NAD+ and a lot about different therapies, but how important is that, especially its role in the mitochondria health and maybe the microbiome to gut health?

Momo Vuyisich: 32:30
To be honest, I haven’t seen any recommendations for NAD+ the target, specifically the microbiome and so I think what we focus on is mostly nutrients found in existing foods. So that’s all I can really say about NAD and microbiome.

Caspar Szulc: 32:56
Now let’s move on then to supplementation. Are there things that you’re recommending supplement wise to go along with the nutritional piece in patients?

Momo Vuyisich: 33:08
Yeah, so we do make recommendations for classical supplements, you know, minerals, vitamins and prebiotics and probiotics. But not every customer gets those. And so an ideal customer or a healthy customer would be someone who has the richness and diversity of their microbiome, such that their microbiome combined with the foods that we provide, that we asked them to eat, contains a hundred percent of everything that their body needs to function, right?

Related: The 7 Best Probiotics: A Clinical-Based Product Review

So we all know of people who lived to be there in their nineties back in the 1800s and 1900’s when there were no supplements, right? Meaning that if you live in a state where your microbiome is there and it’s nourishing you, you don’t really need any supplementation. And so for example, vitamin B12 is one of these things that, you know, people say, well, you can’t be vegan because vitamin B12 is not found in plants. It turns out that vitamin B12 is found in animals only because their microbiome produced it from them for them. So none of the animal meat that or meat that people consume comes from those animals. It’s actually their microbiome that produced it. And so, microbiome is capable of producing vitamin B if you have the right microbiome. And many other obviously beneficial chemicals.

So the point is that for some people they do not need any supplements of any kind. For others, their microbiome is simply failing to produce certain beneficial compounds or chemicals that are available as supplements and the foods that would be supplementing those molecules turn out to be bad for them because they also contain other molecules that their microbiome. And I emphasize their microbiome would use to produce some bad chemicals, right? So unfortunately for those people, they cannot be recommended those foods. And so they need supplements. In addition, some of the people, in fact in the United States, many people have lost essential functions of the microbiome. So you have, for example, people who have reduced their microbiome due to use overuse of antibiotics to the point where they’re missing essential members of the microbiome and they are prescribed or recommended to take probiotics, unfortunately.

And that’s a long conversation that we could get into. We currently lack probiotics in the market. We only have two types of probiotics, bifidobacteria and Lacto bacteria, lactobacillus, that are very limited in terms of functional output. We wish that there were many, many more like hundreds of species of probiotics so that we can give everyone the probiotics that they need in order to revive or restore the functions that are beneficial. And then we have, of course, recommend prebiotics. w, 90% of the people who consume probiotics. in our, in our dataset there, those probiotics don’t actually survive. They don’t colonize, they are literally wasting their money away. And the reason is that our microbiome, our gut microbiome is natively resistant to the introduction of new members. It’s formed its own community and it rejects other members. And so in order for other members to stick, you have to provide them with a specific food, which is prebiotics.

And so typically when we recommend a probiotic, if the algorithm doesn’t find prebiotic food and actual foods, then it’ll recommend to that person to take a specific prebiotic, which would be some kind of indigestible fiber.

Caspar Szulc: 36:50
And inulin and there are many different, dandelion root, all of that chicory that you could use for that. And there are so many supplements now you brought up the use of, of course, antibiotics playing a big role in reducing the function of the gut microbiome and probably causing dysbiosis in the data you’ve seen and everything. How many people are in a sense abusing or taking antibiotics, they are therefore affecting their microbiome negatively?

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Momo Vuyisich: 37:16
It’s a distribution just like with almost any parameter that we look at. It’s a Gaussian distribution. So there are a fraction of people that have taken too many antibiotics and their richness in the gut microbiome is severely affected.

And that’s really, really unfortunate because for some of our customers there is no solution, meaning that no matter what food they consume, no matter which pre about probiotics and prebiotics they consume, they are simply still missing some important functions. And so for example, this really important organism called Akkermansia mucin a Fila. It’s not been available as a probiotic and it’s a very essential member of the microbiome that has multiple beneficial functions. But there are many other Roseburia and Faecalibacterium, and so on. There are many other microorganisms that have very, very beneficial functions that can be turned on. But if they don’t exist in someone’s gut microbiome, you can’t turn on those functions. Luckily, there’s so much redundancy in the microbiome, meaning there are many different bacteria that can perform the same function that we are able to turn on those beneficial functions and other lesser-known bacteria.

So we’re doing as well as we can, but really if you just Google the statistics on not only for adults but for children, how much unnecessary antibiotic use there is today in the world. It’s really, it’s really criminal. For anything today. And it, and it’s really the fault of both the medical system and the people. The people are taught that the antibiotic essentially kills everything and the bacteria are bad. If you ask a normal person, still today, bacteria are bad. And so people, people want antibiotics. And so I know doctors, who are very careful not to prescribe antibiotics, but people will come, they will demand antibiotics, their child is sick, they want their child to get over whatever. Instead of waiting three or four days for the trial to just overcome it naturally, they want an antibiotic. Even if their child has a chronic viral infection of some sort.

Consumption of antibiotics now causes more dysbiosis. And now when I was growing up, I’m 46 years old when I was growing up one generation ago, right? I didn’t know any, any children who had asthma or food allergies, that was simply unheard of. And today it’s very typical for a child to have asthma or allergies. It’s very typical and we’ve come to essentially accept as normal. Well, that’s not normal. We really should not be accepting that that’s normal. And it’s normal because we’re overusing antibiotics basically from the moment a child is born, we’re pumping them with antibiotics for any reason whatsoever.

Caspar Szulc: 40:04
Right. And I can agree with you 100% that is rampant use. I mean, we, we see patients at our medical center, I speak to doctors all the time and, and you’re right, patients ask for it right away at the first sign of anything. It’s almost like a little bit of a fever. Let me just put you on an antibiotic. Right. Or ask for that antibiotic. And, I think it’s a little bit of an education problem. Meaning I feel that’s an easy fallback. We’re used to just give me something. Right. Even if it’s viral, they still want something, even though antibiotics will do nothing for you. They’re right. But it’s a sense of comfort and taking a pill. I think we all have gotten there.

Momo Vuyisich: 40:42
Exactly. We’ve all been brainwashed for that. The whole society has and, I agree. We absolutely need to bring this holistic approach to the human body and therapy all the way back to elementary school. Right. And have an educational component that says humans are not humans were mostly microbes and then some humans and that we need to take care of our microbiome from birth because it’s taking care of us. And because we’ve destroyed it systematically over the last 30 or 40 years due to overuse of antibiotics, we’ve come to the situation where we have rampant chronic diseases. 80% of the people of adults in the United States have a chronic disease. I mean, everyone is sick. Everyone is sick. And we’ve caused it and we continue to cause it, even though now we have the information to know what causes it and it’s still happening.

Caspar Szulc: 41:34
And we’ve normalized it too. I’ve noticed it’s okay to have a chronic disease. It’s almost a rare thing. You know, I tell people my parents are in their seventies now and they’re no chronic disease. They’re not on any prescription pills. They’re just older. Right. But they’re healthier, older. And people find that fascinating. They find that as such a strange thing that my parents aren’t on any prescription drugs, don’t have a chronic disease and aren’t in a wheelchair. And I say that that’s nuts that you’re saying that, you know, it’s not that they’re the strange ones. We’ve again, normalize disease as the natural way. It’s unnatural to be old and healthy. It’s natural that we get a disease. And I think that’s completely backward.

Momo Vuyisich: 42:18
Yeah. I mean, 40, 50 years ago it would have been the opposite.

Caspar Szulc: 42:21
Right. And look how quick. That’s not really that long. 40, 50 years long.

Momo Vuyisich: 42:26
And yeah, we need to do something extremely quickly. And that’s basically the reason that we created Viome. I had one of the best jobs on the planet. I was set. I loved what I did. I had a great job and yet I quit it cold. And Nevine my co-founder and CEO, he’s a billionaire. He didn’t have to start Viome. He doesn’t need money. He doesn’t need fame. He’s fine. He set. We really created it because going back to my original statement, academia are not solving the problem. They’re publishing papers and pharmaceutical companies will never solve the problem because they don’t want to solve the problem. So there is no entity that’s systematically actually out there trying to solve this problem of what is causing chronic diseases and how do we fix it.

And so we had to create an entity and we realized that the best way to do that is to create a for-profit company that can scale globally. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. So I’m happy with our start so far.

Caspar Szulc: 43:27
Yeah. And I think it’s a wonderful thing you guys do. And because you’re taking the knowledge from academia and other places where it’s not being applied as much it and applying it in an entrepreneurial way. Correct. And starting something new, truly innovative, something different to try and help people and actually solve. And I always say that it’s one thing o look at an issue and address some of the pieces that allow it to persist, but maybe help. It’s another thing to get the root cause and truly solve it. Yeah.

Momo Vuyisich: 43:56
And I do want to highlight something if we have a couple of minutes. It’s a sort of tangential diversion, but it’s very important. When people, you know, this is the business aspect of running our business. You know, people will say, well, you’re trying to solve a big problem, but you still have to make money and you still have to get money from VCs, right? Well, you’re absolutely right. And all other companies that are in our sort of field, they do have to get money from VCs. But here’s our approach and I encourage everyone in others, this field of microbiome and CRI diseases, but in every other field, let’s draw and let’s change. Let’s draw the and let’s change the attitude of VCs, right? So in our three and a half years of existence at Viomr, literally 99% of VCs that we’ve talked to, they walk away three minutes after we talked to them because in the first three minutes we tell them that we created via them to solve a big problem, not to make money or become famous.

We have no idea if and when we’re going to go public and they cannot tell us what to do from the business perspective. We have a mission that we absolutely have to accomplish and money cannot be in the way and when we’re going to exit and make the money cannot be in the way. And that’s why we lose 99% of investors because that’s why they exist. They exist in order to make money. When we tell them we don’t know when and if we’re going to make you money, they walk away. Right? And so that can be very discouraging for other companies. But if you simply stick to your guns and you know why you created a company and you know what problem you’re trying to solve, you are going to find the investors that are going to invest in you. And we have found them.

And so I want to say that, you know, so far we have raised $80 million from investors who truly not only want to make money, but they want to change the world. They want to use the money that they have to actually invest in companies like ours to change the world. And I think that we need more of that in every single field because going back to pharmaceutical companies, right, they have massive budgets and yet they’re not solving the problem. They’re just managing the problem. And we really need to add the social responsibility to investors and say, Hey, you may not make as much money. You’re going to still make money, but you’re going to solve big problems. Look at what, what Elon Musk is doing with the money, right? Yes. He’s changing the world for better in, in more profound ways than all governments combined.

Right? And he’s doing it with money and he is, yeah, he’s not making money right now, but he’s going to make money in the future. You just have to be a little more patient. To me, he is the best transformer of money into something useful for humanity. And so we need to simply demand that kind of new attitude of investors.

Caspar Szulc: 46:52
Well, it needs to be a change in thinking that making money and doing something good and solving problems are at the end two ends of the spectrum, right? It’s almost as if one is charitable and you’re a big thinker, but you’re never going to make any money. The truth is if you could solve problems, the money will come.

Momo Vuyisich: 47:09
That’s exactly the key. Exactly. When, when you know, when the world realizes that if you actually consume personalized nutrition that is good for you and prevent disease, we’re going to be able to monetize that somehow. And so we’re going to come with coming up with creative ways to do that. For example, soon we’re coming up with a product line that’s personalized supplements, right? And so we’re going to be able to monetize there. So there will be ways to monetize and our VCs will get their money there. They just have to be more patient and they may not get as much money as in the short run as for pharmaceuticals. But they’re going to solve a huge problem with us as the vehicle.

Caspar Szulc: 47:50
Right. And patience is a virtue both in healing and investing. So that’s something both sides need to realize. And I think society as a whole, especially if you’re not feeling well and in that chronic disease, state patience is how you’re going to get out of it. And for those that are investing in the solutions, it’s the same thing. Be patient, you will see the results. I’m hoping that more and more VCs, more and more investors all around, do take what you’ve been able to apply yourselves at volume and take that amongst a number of other companies doing great things. As we wrap this up, I want to ask you a few things. Do you personally use any supplements, probiotics on a daily regimen?

Momo Vuyisich: 48:27
Nope, not probiotics. Luckily I have a very, very I have one of the best microbiomes. And I can, I can tell you that that’s because I haven’t used antibiotics in a long time. We only eat organic foods, so we don’t have any food that has preservatives in it. And we do organic farming at home. And so when I pull a carrot out of the soil, I literally just brush off like the big chunks of soil and I consumed that carrot right there. Some large carrots that I consume, they may have as much as one gram of soil on that carrot. And I consume that and that’s the way the human body is evolved. A million years ago as we were evolving, we didn’t have peelers, we didn’t have soap, we didn’t have running water. You pull the root out of the ground and you ate it the way it is. And so I don’t consume any probiotics. I do take some supplements. I am a vegan and so I do take some supplements but very few and it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Caspar Szulc: 49:25
Right. And how important is that that people focus on the quality of food as well? Because you just said you’re growing it yourself. You know, it’s fresh, it’s alive, it’s, it’s got that nutrient-dense. You’re picking it at the right time. How important is food quality?

Momo Vuyisich: 49:38
Well, I think the food quality is very important. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the choice to get high-quality food. So I encourage and neither do we necessarily, and that’s why we resorted to organic farming. So from March until November, we consume a lot of the produce from the garden. So I encourage everyone to pick up gardening. It’s really easy. Container gardens occupy very little space. They’re very easy to maintain and they produce phenomenal amounts of produce. I mean, it’s just amazing how small of an area can produce such a large amount for us three. Right? So that’s that. And then if people have access and can afford fresh markets, then that’s probably the best way to go. That’s probably the freshest food and the most nutritious food.

But I think the biggest, the biggest contribution, I think the biggest advice I can give here is to avoid all nonorganic food. Right. And here are two examples. One is you go buy meat and it says all-natural, right? Natural when it applies to meat is not like a subjective term that you and I colloquially talk about. Natural meat is a definition with the FDA or USDA, and what it means is that you can label meat naturally if you have not added anything to it after the animal has been slaughtered, right? That’s the definition. The legal definition. What that means is that they can pump that chicken with every kind of additive and antibiotic until the minute before the chicken dies. Then they slaughter it. Now they don’t add anything and they call it all-natural. So you’re consuming antibiotics unknowingly. So that’s one problem. The second problem is the food industry is great at hiding antibiotics.

For example, they will make sauerkraut and sauerkraut people consider, wow, this is good, this is full of probiotics. But the food industry will say, well, wait a minute. If we make sauerkraut and then add antibiotics to it, it can be preserved for three years. It’s not going to go bad in a few weeks like sauerkraut. So they add antibiotics, but they don’t call them antibiotics. They call it to preserve freshness. You want fresh food? Of course you do. I want fresh food and this is preserving freshness. Of course, I want that. Well, what they’ve done is they’ve added potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate who that sauerkraut, those two chemicals have now killed all the beneficial probiotics. That’s really bad. But now you’re consuming that sauerkraut, you’re introducing those antibiotics into your mouth and your gut and you’re destroying your salivary, your mouth microbiome and your gut microbiome. So it has the opposite effect. So you really as a consumer have to be well educated and you have to realize what kind of tricks the food industry has played and how they label foods. I think the safest thing to do is simply to buy all organic food. If it’s twice as much, you eat half as much and you’re set, you’ll be thinner and healthier, you’ll live longer and you’ll have fewer problems.

Caspar Szulc: 52:40
Yeah, and you brought it up. When you have something of high quality, you don’t need as much, right? If you’re eating processed foods, you’re probably going to eat a lot. Your body’s going to be starved of certain things and require more. And more so I do completely say invest a little bit more in that food. You won’t be eating as much. You’ll see actually reduction in the cost may be over time so you can eat less and less and absorb more and more. All of these things. If you could recommend one book related to health, what would it be?

Momo Vuyisich: 53:11
I don’t recommend any books, unfortunately. And the reason is that the books are going to be outdated and they’re going to have a theme that that is thought about by the as the best thing. I really think people need to Google everything, right? There are primary research articles, there are that there is information out there that’s very important, that’s not in books. For example, one place that I recommend everyone go to is there’s a doctor called Robynne Chutkan and she started this, the theme of rewilding your gut. And I encourage everyone to read about rewilding your gut. I already mentioned some of these things like organic farming and so on, but read about rewilding your gut because a lot of Americans have lost the richness of their gut microbiome did. They can reclaim if they go out in nature and they’re not afraid of everything and they don’t sterilize everything and they don’t peel everything and wash everything with soap and all that stuff. So I encourage that reading. And Google is your friend just, yeah, look far and wide and look what interests you.

Caspar Szulc: 54:22
Where would you place importance, evidence versus experience? Because I know so many people look at the evidence, but I think that then turns into, like you said, Oh, it will work for me. The evidence has shown me that this approach, ketogenic works, right. And then you apply and then you have to experience and see it. So, and again, you’re coming from a science background, so I don’t know, but where on the spectrum do you do kind of balance this out? Evidence or experience or put experience higher?

Momo Vuyisich: 54:52
You mean at Viome or it might me personally?

Caspar Szulc: 54:54
I think personally, not at Viome. I’m just asking personally because I know too many people go directly to evidence and they could care less about their own experience almost anymore.

Momo Vuyisich: 55:03
Well, I am a scientist and I’m a chemist, so I have a PhD in chemistry. Yes, very, very objective. And I look at the human body and the microbiome and foods all as chemicals and chemical reactions. So I am very objective and so I’ve obviously had personal experiences and I know that in this particular case of my disease, ‘ve been disease-free for five years completely. I’ve had zero issues with my disease for five years since I switched my diet. And so now, this is my experience and I know it works and I know the molecular mechanism, but I can’t get tested. There is no test to tell me, Oh, you’re, you have IGGs against this new FiveGC. That test doesn’t exist, so I can’t prove it. I know that it works. And enough publications have been out there published that. I know that it works. So I think it’s a combination, but we should really rely mostly on hard data when available.

Caspar Szulc: 56:02
And, and that’s the thing, we’re just catching up there. That data is coming in for so much. And I know Viome’s doing a great job of collecting that data and making it valuable information.

Momo Vuyisich: 56:13
Yeah, I think the audience should know and we are very proud that, you know, for example, I have nothing to do with the commercial side of Viome. I am on the research side, we have viral research Institute and I co-run it and we have such an extensive clinical research program. There are companies that are a thousand times bigger than us that don’t have such an extensive clinical research program. And the reason is because the only way for us to learn is to actually perform clinical research. You can’t just make stuff up. And so for this, for example, glycaemic response study, even though we are a startup, we committed $1 million to this study and we actually went and bought food at Whole Foods for 20,000 meals. So we spent something like $600,000 at Whole Foods just to feed the participants high-quality food that we know.

Instead of telling them what to eat, we gave them what to eat. So of the 30,000 meals that we, that they consume, 20,000 were provided by us. So we know exactly with 100% certainty what they ate. And so these are the kinds of investments that have to be made. You can’t just say like there are these AI companies, that just go out and collect public data and say, Oh, we now know stuff. Well, you don’t really know because those data all have their biases that you don’t understand. You don’t know how they were created. You don’t know what errors were made. You’re just doing AI on a bunch of data and thinking you’re making the right conclusions.

Caspar Szulc: 57:39
Yeah, and that sounds like an awesome study. And if you’re doing another one, I’d love to be a part of that and get some good Whole Foods.

Momo Vuyisich: 57:45
We’ve already learned everything from that study, but we, you know, we, we have currently more than 10 active clinical programs, right? With thousands of participants. So we’ve enrolled more than 10,000 participants in our clinical research studies over the last three and a half years. Again, going back to academic studies, if you look at the top publications in academia, we’re talking about under a hundred people in any clinical study. So next time you read about coffee’s good for or coffee’s bad for your week is good for your dairy is good for you or whatever is good or bad for you, whatever study pickup, look at how many people were enrolled in that study. It’s going to be a handful to maybe twenties and thirties it’s very rare that it goes up to a hundred and that’s the problem that let’s say there are two studies and asked, is coffee good for you or bad for you?

And in one study they picked 10 people and by random chance, seven of those people benefit from coffee at that particular time in their life. And their conclusion is, coffee is good for you because in that small population, coffee was on average better than not good. Right? Another study does 10 people as well, but in their population, just by random chance, seven people do not benefit from coffee. Again at that time, maybe a year later their microbiome was going to change and they would benefit from coffee. They don’t know that and they don’t care about that. They just care about publishing a paper. They have a very small population. That’s why we have conflicting information. I don’t know of any ingredient or any food today for which there isn’t science seeing is good for you and science saying there it’s bad for you, right? I think it’s there for everything.

So that’s why people are like, what the hell do I eat? So when they tell me it’s good you on day and so it’s completely conflicting and it’s because there it’s all for the average is you’re looking for something for the average and it doesn’t exist. The reality is that that doesn’t exist. So you’re seeking something that doesn’t exist. And we need to get away from that. We are all different.

Caspar Szulc: 59:38
Yes, very true and it is a problem. You see more and more that you have this conflicting information. It leaves people really puzzled and unsure of what actions to take to kind of take control of their health. Finishing this off Momo, what’s next for you and Viome?

Momo Vuyisich: 01:00:52
Well, for us the focus is always in clinical research. So I have two basically main tasks at Viome that I’m pushing. One is product development. So we’ve been running this stool test for the last three years. We are planning to release a blood test in may. This is a revolutionary test that we’ll give more details as it comes up. And then we have a couple of other tests that are coming up later this year. Potentially saliva is our next one and maybe vaginal microbiome is next one. So those are all in the pipeline. We are using them for research and as they become valuable for a consumer, we convert them down to a consumer product, right? We validate them clinically and so on. So that’s one side. The other side is clinical research. Like I said, we have more than 10 active programs setting up 10 additional ones. And the most exciting part is clinical trials. So until you do our randomized control trial, everything else is based on beliefs, right?

So today I have to go talk to our partners and investors and other scientists and potential research subjects and convinced them that this will work right? When we perform randomized controlled trials and show statistically that this actually works, then there’s not going to be any more need for beliefs and discussions. We’re going to have a trial done. This works, we’re done. And so we are planning to run about eight clinical trials this year. We started one on autism earlier. We are currently in the final stages of some metabolic disease trials and population-scale trials and IBS and depression. So all of those should be completed by the end of this year if the virus doesn’t mess us up. So those are the most exciting things where, I can’t wait for the day where you can take a hundred people with a disease, let’s say IBS, right? And you analyze their stool sample all a hundred people will be given different food ingredients that they need to consume and all a hundred go to a Whole Foods or whatever choice of their stories and they buy different foods and yet all of them get better. How cool is that going to be?

Caspar Szulc: 01:02:05
Yeah, no, that’s going to be awesome. And it’s something I fully promote our company promotes. I’m glad we’re on the same page there because it is about that personalization and again, curing that so-called incurable, which you know is not a true term. And I think that can turn around, we can get our society back on the right path of staying healthy for a very long time.

Momo Vuyisich: 01:02:28
Absolutely. I mean, I mean I’m not the only example of curing the incurable. There are examples out there, but you know, modern medicine just dismisses that as okay crazy people or anecdotes or things like that. They’re simply in denial, but there are people who’ve cured their multiple sclerosis completely intermission for over a decade and modern medicine would say that’s not possible, well it’s happening. So it is possible.

Caspar Szulc: 01:02:53
Absolutely. And that’s where I was going with that experience. I, but yes, it’s absolutely possible we’re right there Viome is doing an excellent job at that. So thank you for that. And I can’t wait to see what comes out of there next.

Momo Vuyisich: 01:03:05
Yeah, we’re very excited. And on the speaking on the virus, we are actually about to submit our application for the emergency use authorization of our stool test for detection of virus and stool because no one else is doing it. Literally, there is no stool test for virus and it’s turning out based on the early publications that it’s likely going to play a significant role in that it can cause a gastrointestinal disease, which we don’t know what the significance of that is yet, but second, it can be very important in shedding the virus and transmission mechanisms and so we want to introduce that and then if needed we can also bring on respiratory testing, but that’s probably not going to be needed because other companies are jumping on it, which is good.

Caspar Szulc: 01:03:50
Right. But that is big news and I hope that comes through because they definitely need help and I’m sure you guys can detect that and help out with that, so thank you for that as well. Momo, it’s been a real pleasure.

Momo Vuyisich: 01:04:03
Thank you very much, Caspar.

Caspar Szulc: 01:04:05
It’s truly awesome to hear from such a great scientific mind that this new paradigm of medicine and healing is actually happening and gaining steam. Viome is helping to transform what it means to heal in a personalized manner and how we can’t get caught up in the old way of thinking to solve health problems that we’re seeing today. Whether it’s a pathogen or Crohn’s disease. We have to embrace this new take on healthcare and continue to apply new and innovative ideas, technologies, and approaches to protect our most valued possession, health. I highly encourage people to check out and start to apply the idea of a personalized diet being the best one for you. Just as we Innovate Medicine, believe in a personalized medical treatment plan that addresses all root causes is really the best for reversing chronic diseases. In that respect, I loved Momo’s story because we’re on the same path to not just cure the incurable but prevent disease before it ever happens. We’re putting up more and more info on just what that looks like at like best products you could use during the pandemic or the research behind supplements like our Nadovim that can help halt replication so feel free to check that out at our site until next time. This is Caspar Szulc, hoping you stay safe, happy, healthy, and forging forward with your own healing story.

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