Attendees Experience Next Generation of Genomics Firsthand at BioForward’s Annual Wisconsin Biohealth Summit


Over 200 attendees had their smart phones swabbed to be included in a global microbiome and metagenomics study, MetaSUB, led by keynote speaker Dr. Chris Mason, Associate Professor of Weill Cornell Medicine and Director of WorldQuant Initiative for Quantitative Prediction, at this past years annual Wisconsin Biohealth Summit.

In collaboration with Dr. Masons lab, BioForward was able to host the first Wisconsin event that included a collection of this type of genomics data at their annual Summit. Attendees had the opportunity to experience the innovative research and development in the genomics field firsthand by having their cell phones swabbed and sequenced.

During the keynote presentation, Dr. Mason described ground-breaking research covering his work with the global MetaSUB project and a now released paper published by NASA on genetic changes post space excursion. Mason also walked attendees through the interactive experiment and what data they could expect to receive after the samples were processed by Masons lab.

Attendees who participated now have access to a personalized online report detailing the contents of the microbiome that was swabbed from their phone, as well as an online database of microbe trends amongst all participant data.

Participant data published included:

  • 87% of the DNA on one participant’s phone came from unknown sources
  • One participant phone tested strongly positive for octopus DNA
  • While many participants had fewer than a million reads of DNA on their phones, one participant had over 157 million!
  • The bacterial DNA on all but one participant’s phone showed strong evidence of carrying an antimicrobial resistance gene.
  • 79-100% of bacterial DNA found on participants phones come from bacteria that have the ability to make humans ill.
  • While the majority of bacterial DNA found belongs to bacteria that live in our bodies or local environment, 3 participants had roughly a third of their phone’s bacteria DNA originate from bacteria that are fit to survive in extreme conditions (boiling water, arctic temperatures, etc.)

Additional data and infographics from the experiment can be found on the MetaSUB website.

Data collected at the event will now be contributed to the MetaSUB genome project dedicated to building molecular profiles of cities around the globe to improve their design, functionality, and impact on public health. These microbiome maps can be used in the future to better understand the interactions of microbiomes on common surfaces and how it impacts human health.

BioForward was excited to partner with Dr. Mason to provide a unique experience to our members and students from the state, said Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward. It is these types of experiences that reminds us why the work our industry is doing is so critical and why the industry peaked our curiosities in the first place.

To learn more about BioForwards annual Wisconsin Biohealth Summit and Dr. Masons experiment, visit the Summit website here.

About BioForward

BioForward serves as the independent voice of Wisconsins biohealth industry, providing services and resources to support the growth of our industry throughout the U.S. and the world. BioForward is the only Wisconsin organization representing over 200 biohealth member companies including biotech, biopharma, medical device, diagnostics, digital health, as well as research institutions, and service providers. Learn more about BioForward Wisconsin and their initiatives for 2019 at

Brian Moeller
BioForward Wisconsin
Email: [email protected]