This company analyzes wastewater to generate population-level insights about human health

Originally used to detect opioid use, the technology was later expanded to give health departments a more accurate picture of the prevalence of the coronavirus.
sewage

Biobot Analytics is an interesting company that believes it can create meaningful insights by analyzing wastewater. Or as they put it to “transform wastewater infrastructure into public health observatories.”

Launched in 2017 from a research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the company’s original technology — which includes wastewater monitoring equipment and analytical tools — was meant to detect opioids by analyzing urine and stool samples collected from sewage. And it worked as far as local officials of Cary, N.C. are concerned, with Biobot data helping them reduce overdoses by 40% and lowering their burden on the healthcare system. Which is what this technology is all about at the end of the day — to help local health departments generate population-level insights about human health.

“Doctors use waste samples regularly to understand, diagnose and care for our individual wellbeing,” said Mariana Matus, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Biobot Analytics. “We are deploying our technology to do the same at the population level, which is tremendously valuable to government and private sector partners and will be core to public health improvement and the development of smart cities.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Biobot expanded its use case to provide municipalities with a more accurate picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in local populations.

Specifically, it offered a pro bono wastewater-testing program, providing sampling kits and instructions to city departments and wastewater treatment facilities, then asking that they take a couple of samples a week and mail them back for analysis.

“The team has shown the potential of using our wastewater systems for mitigating the opioid crisis, and now is the time to extend the approach to addressing other important health challenges, from COVID-19 and other viruses to environmental contaminants,” said Ann DeWitt, a general partner of MIT’s venture firm The Engine, which is one of Biobot’s investors. The company’s other investors include AmFam Institute Impact Fund, Y Combinator and DCVC.

Takeaway

Using anonymous data collected from sewage, Biobot's platform can trace health indicators that provide insights into drug use, the presence of viruses, environmental contaminants and nutrition. During the coronavirus pandemic, the company's technology was tested to provide municipalities with a more accurate picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in local populations.

According to Biobot's founder Mariana Matus, their idea is to deploy the same technology doctors regularly use to understand, diagnose and care for individual patients at the population level. Insights generated this way could be core to public health improvements and the development of smart cities.
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Action point

FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS:
Contacting Biobot Analytics and bringing its technology to your municipality could make a big impact on the health of your constituents. By placing sensors in the sewage, city officials and the local health department could get meaningful insights that could lower the overall healthcare costs while at the same time helping improve the health of the people. It means taking a proactive approach that is not just better but also cost-effective.

FOR BUSINESSES:
A savvy company could explore partnership opportunities with Biobot Analytics. Chances are they need distributors to bring their technology to new places. And that's where your company could chip-in - to include a novel service into its offering and help make cities smarter & better. The pitch to such a solution is rather simple as everyone knows that prevention is more cost-effective than treatment. And with Biobot's technology, you get just that — with the sewage data revealing what's going on health-wise at the population level.