Many of you may remember Richard Sprague from ITEXPO. He was the Senior Director, Marketing for Microsoft Response Point – their small business phone system launched at the show. It was great working with him throughout 2009.
Richard moved on to focus more on the healthcare space after leaving Microsoft and more recently has been doing some fascinating things with his microbiome, meaning the entire community of microbes found in his body at any given time. A fascinating CNBC article about Rich details how he’s sent in hundreds of samples from his skin, nose and stool to various companies that claim to analyze the microbiome for insights about human health.
Here is an excerpt:
In 2014, he decided to do all he could to understand his body with these newly available tests. He was one of the first to try 23andMe to analyze his DNA, and was early into direct-to-consumer “microbiome” tests, including one from venture-backed uBiome, where he worked as a citizen scientist-in-residence.
“About five years ago, I started learning about all the non-human genes that are just sitting there, which co-evolved with humans and are clearly doing something,” he said.
What did he find? Some fascinating things:
- Among the beverages marketed as being a source of probiotics, kombucha doesn’t seem to do much for Sprague’s microbes. But Kefir, a fermented milk drink, was a microbial favorite. As Sprague put it in a blog post,, “although I can’t put my finger on anything quantitative, I do notice that I seem to be a little more energetic on days when I drink kefir. ”
- Diet can have a big impact on Sprague’s sleep. He noticed that when he ate potato starch, he was able to increase the amount of a microbe called bifidobacterium, an ingredient found in many commercial probiotics, in his gut. “I learned that this microbe likes to eat a particular kind of resistant starch in potatoes, so I’d drink it about 8 hours before sleep and tested myself,” he explained. “I saw a bloom (of it), and sure enough, my sleep that night was amazing.” He believes it increased his levels of melatonin, which induces sleep.
It’s interesting how Richard has made the evolution from the technological to the biological world. In some ways computer networks and a biological organism are quite similar. Nerves in the body are like IoT sensors and both use electrical signals to communicate.
They are also both complex. Until complex network monitoring systems were invented, it was tough to figure out what was causing network degradation.
Interestingly it seems Rich is doing this same kind of thing with the microbiome – trying to determine what is the optimal input into the complex system to maximize the health of the network and “maximize” its productivity.
It’s great to see ITEXPO alumni going on to do great things. In this case – drawing attention to the direct connection between food and health. We expect to hear more interesting things about Rich and his endeavors in the future.