To many, it’s just a waste. But Seed Health sees poop as the next thing in health tracking

Seed Health has acquired Auggi, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to analyze photos of human feces, to expand its capabilities to track digestive health. (Getty/Kritchanut)(Getty/Andrey Suslov)

One company is betting big on gut health as the next evolution of health tracking.

Seed Health has acquired Auggi, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to analyze photos of human feces, or put less delicately, poop.

The microbial sciences company announced the deal—on the same day, it pointed out, as what is apparently 'National Poop Day'—saying it plans to use Auggi's AI technology to launch its first digital product monitoring gastrointestinal health. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The two companies teamed up in 2019 to launch the #GiveAShit campaign that put out a call for people to email photos of their number two with the aim of creating the world’s first and largest crowdsourced database of stool images. Those photos train artificial intelligence to recognize healthy versus unhealthy stool, and make it easier for those with chronic gut conditions to better track their own health.

That campaign also aimed to change the conversation around gut health, and stop the stigma that exists around gut conditions.

With the acquisition, Seed Health plans to integrate Auggi’s unique digestive tracking tool with its microbiome knowledge to gain insights into gut health in both clinical and at-home settings, the company said.

Launched in 2017, Los Angeles-based Seed Health will acquire Auggi's technology assets, including its AI algorithm for real-time Bristol stool typing, the stool image database, and a mobile monitoring application for clinical research.

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Seed Health works on developing ways to use bacteria to develop treatments and sells a daily probiotic supplement. The company's current pipeline includes interventions for infectious disease, allergy, and inflammatory conditions.

Auggi is a digital health company founded by David Hachuel and Alfonso Martinez and created by a coalition of engineers from MIT, Cornell, and Harvard, to help those who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal conditions better track their diet, symptoms, and stool.

"Stool is one of the most valuable, but stigmatized, biomarkers of gastrointestinal health. Tracking and accurate characterization could empower individuals and their providers with important, actionable insights," said Ara Katz, Seed Health co-founder and co-CEO, in a statement.

"Building on recent research that explores digital augmentation of an intervention, we are also developing applications of Auggi's AI to improve adherence and outcomes when used in combination with Seed's daily synbiotic. We are excited to build on Auggi's vision and inspire novel uses of their technology," he said.

"We are excited that Seed Health will carry our vision forward, stewarding new applications of our technology to empower people with greater insights about their digestive health," Hachuel said in a statement.  "We look forward to seeing our technologies enrich clinical research and improve human quality of life, which is so significantly impacted by gastrointestinal health."

Traditional methods of tracking and characterizing a patient's stool are subjective, inconsistent, burdensome, and hampered by poor adherence. With their proprietary image database, Auggi's deep neural networks can accurately detect and characterize stool with 94.07% accuracy as compared to 75% accuracy from self-assessment, the companies said.

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Seed Health’s pre/probiotic has received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as an Investigational New Drug around irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The acquisition will enable Seed Health to integrate Auggi's mobile tracking application across their human clinical trials assessing probiotics in IBS, constipation, and after antibiotic consumption. Previous GI-related clinical research has relied on often inconsistent and inaccurate manual reporting. This technology is currently deployed in Seed Health's ongoing Phase II randomized, triple-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trial to investigate the role of the gut microbiome in patients with IBS at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Seed plans to launch its first consumer-focused digital product utilizing the AI and stool database in 2021. The company also currently testing a unique companion tracking and educational experience for its flagship probiotic to improve adherence, outcomes, and retention.