Gut checks aren’t just for people to figure out how much resolve they have in the face of adversity, they’re also part of the world of probiotics, the living organisms that aid digestion and fight off bacteria.
San Diego-based Sun Genomics founder and CEO Suneer (Sunny) Jain got into the business of probiotics in 2016 as part of taking a closer look at why his young son was having serious digestion issues. Jain was unimpressed with the plethora of supplements at local stores, both on the shelf and refrigerated, that purportedly offered relief.
Jain says 85 percent of the probiotics commonly available don’t survive acids in the stomach.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium that help regulate and care for the digestive system. Commonly used to help treat irritable bowel syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and some types of diarrhea, researchers have found that probiotics can help urinary health, prevent allergies and help alleviate some skin conditions like eczema.
Instead of relying on other products from other companies, Jain decided to create his own custom probiotic that would improve gut health, alleviate abdominal pain, constipation, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth and other digestive issues.
And after seeing the positive results for his son, he went into business for himself, seeking to help a growing population of those who want to heal their own gut health challenges.
Jain’s creation of Floré, a personalized probiotic system that analyzes stool samples of customers to create uniquely tailored supplements that are sent out on a monthly basis, is rooted in the results of whole genome microflora testing.
Jain said unlike DNA, in which the population shares 99 percent of the same, people’s body microflora are 90 percent different from one another. What goes on inside the body “is like the largest party that ever happened, and many don’t know who’s on the guest list,” he said.
Jain said the company saw a 280 percent growth in sales year over year from 2020 to 2021 for Floré. The company is also growing internally — there are now 25 employees at Sun Genomics.
Jain said Sun Genomics personnel predicted there would be more focus on gut health over time but they never anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic would be a way to get people to start taking their heath more seriously. He said that about 15 percent of those who have had COVID-19 reported having gastrointestinal issues from the illness and that the company is supportive of customers coming to them with those symptoms and happy when they can find relief through Flore.
He said Floré “creates wellness to put people in the best prepared state in case they are exposed (to COVID-19).”
Even as the pandemic likely caused people to start paying more attention to their health, the product literally may be touching a nerve.
Jain said gastrointestinal issues are a health burden that cost the U.S. medical system about $140 billion dollars a year to treat.
Jain said he is now looking for Floré to become part of the standard of care in health settings. He published his first peer-reviewed work with several other co-authors last November with the American Society for Microbiology.
“Alterations in Gut Microbiome Composition and Function in Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Increased Probiotic Abundance with Daily Supplementation” makes the case for bringing relief to “an estimated 35 million people in the United States and 11.5% of the population globally” who are affected by IBS.
He said he is looking to publish at least two peer-reviewed works that will complement the one from last year. At least one of the studies makes the case for a relationship between microbiomes and autism spectrum disorder. Jain is teaming up with researchers at Arizona State for that study.
The move into his own line of probiotics was not entirely unanticipated for Jain, who earned his B.S. in microbiology and master’s degree in molecular medicine and cell biology at the University of Iowa. He also has background at several different California companies that focus on molecular technology, genomic analysis and other biosciences.
Jain was R&D; supervisor at Pathway Diagnostics, genetic services supervisor at Sequenom, molecular oncology supervisor at LabCorp and technical supervisor of clinical lab services at Illumina.
Since founding his company and manufacturing Floré locally in San Diego, Sun Genomics has raised more than $11 million. The company is scaling rapidly and recently expanded into the European market.
Jain said his son, now 5, is doing well, and like Jain himself, continues to take Floré to maintain proper gut health “He’s doing well and seems to be free of chronic GI issues that made that intervention necessary early in his life,” Jain said. “We will continue to keep track of his microbiomes.”
Jain said when their second son was born nearly one year ago, they tested him for intestinal issues – out of precaution because of the known issues with their first child. “As luck would have it, literally his first stool was found to have tons of E. coli,” Jain said.
The infant would have had serious nutritional deficiencies if they had not gotten ahead of it and started him on Floré from the beginning. Jain said that they monitored their baby weekly and over three months’ time, they were able to bring down the level of toxins.
CEO: Suneer (Sunny) Jain
Headquarters: San Diego
Cost: Product via subscription costs $99 a month
Notable: Floré is non-GMO, vegan and gluten free