Tiny Health raises $8.5M to expand its gut biome tests

Steven Loeb · March 5, 2024 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/581f

The company also announced new strain tracking technology and the launch of its B2B arm

Tiny Health is the developer of an at-home test, using a stool sample to detect gut microbiome imbalances that could lead to allergic diseases and chronic conditions, specifically for pregnant and babies. Its test uses shotgun metagenomics sequencing for detection of over 120,000 bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea, and parasites in the gut.

Over the last two years, the company has been growing its revenue on average 25% month-over-month since the launch in April 2022, and it has now served over 25,000 families.

With that kind of growth, Tiny Health has been growing beyond its initial scope of serving mothers and babies to having tests for the whole family, including fathers and older children. That has also meant expanding into new conditions that affect adults.

To help continue to facilitate its growth, Tiny Health announced an $8.5 million Series A round on Tuesday led by Spero Ventures. Other partners who participated in the round included TheVentureCity, Overwater VC, Next Coast Ventures, and Peterson Ventures, along with investment from longtime Tiny Health customers and angels at Parenthood Ventures. This is the company's first funding round since it raised $4.5 million in November 2022, bringing its total funding to $13 million.

Tiny Health works by sending customers a non-invasive, at-home test kit with simple instructions for a stool sample. The test takes no more than five minutes; since parents are changing diapers frequently, they can take a sample directly from a soiled diaper, or soiled tissue if sampling an older child, using its stool swab, which is similar to a Q-tip but with a desiccant agent to preserve the sample. Customers then put the sample in a prepaid envelope and drop it at the nearest USPS mailbox to be sent to Tiny Health's lab for the analysis.

After the analysis is done, Tiny Health sends the customer a report that comes with personalized evidence-based recommendations based on nutrition and diet, supplements and lifestyle modifications that parents can adopt, such as not feeding a baby infant probiotics, picking a daycare that is more nature-based, or only using antibiotics if absolutely necessary.

Tiny Health’s Baby Gut Test includes predictive microbiome biomarkers for the progression of allergic diseases called Atopic March, such as eczema, food allergies, and asthma. It also has biomarkers for colic, sleep troubles, constipation, and obesity later in life.

The company also offers its Research Edition gut test, which is an IRB-approved study to investigate childhood allergies, as well as a Pregnancy Gut and Vaginal Test that shows microbiome biomarkers for Gestational Diabetes, Preterm labor, recurring UTI, IBD, IBS, and other conditions. 

"More than just serving 25,000 families, we've just seen so much impact and success stories from these parents whose kids were babies and are now older kids, how we've helped them understand the imbalances in their children's gut and how we've helped them relieve symptoms. We've heard stories of conditions completely going away, as well," Cheryl Sew Hoy, CEO and founder of Tiny Health, told VatorNews.

"Growth is one thing but the impact is another thing: we hear many stories of babies having eczema and then taking a Tiny Health test so they can see the root cause of what's causing their child's imbalances. They fix it and then the skin is just so much better, the eczema goes away. Then, if they retest, they see the gut changing in a beneficial direction."

Serving the whole family

As mentioned above, since its last funding raising Tiny Health has expanded to additional family members, as well as microbiome biomarkers for new disease states, including conditions like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, long COVID, polycystic ovary syndrome, SIBO, and urinary tract infections.

The company started with its flagship products, the pregnancy and the gut tests, and then vaginal tests, because babies pass through the vaginal canal and get the gut microbes from the moms. Then, in breastfeeding, the mom is continuing to transfer her gut microbes. Of course, then those children started growing up, so Tiny Health launched an older child test, for those aged three to 17 years old, and an adult test too so that the whole family could be tested.

"This is important because, even after the baby's gut has been course corrected, once they grow up and starting eats solids and then are sitting at the table, eating the same foods the rest of the family is eating in the same environment, and also getting exposed to similar amounts of nature, sunlight, and pets and animals, their gut microbes will also be affected," said Sew Hoy.

"You can't just improve your child's gut in silo, you have to, in a way, improve your own gut, as an adult. So, really, as we grow and expand as a company, we want to cater to all stages of the child's life, as well as the whole family."

While expanding beyond its initial focus, this doesn't represent a pivot for Tiny Health, Sew Hoy explained: the company is still emphasizing the first 1,000 days, which spans from conception till the kid’s early life, in which a baby's immune development is being programmed. 

"We're supporting the child beyond infancy and in early days because you don't stop  improving your gut health. A child's gut is more malleable in the first 1,000 days and it's much easier to change major imbalances, but that doesn't mean you can't change a five year old's gut. It just takes more discipline as a parent," she explained.

"You're still buying food and feeding your child and encouraging good habits, so why stop at three? You need to continue. When we started we had a focus initially but the goal has always been to expand beyond that to fit all stages."

Introducing strain tracking 

Along with the new funding, Tiny Health also announced new probiotic strain-tracking capabilities for its gut and vaginal tests, meaning it can now detect the potential colonization of probiotic strains in the gut or vaginal microbiome, providing insight into how the supplements a person takes impacts their health. 

While adults might have 300 to 500 species in their gut, and infants have maybe 10 or 20 species, because their guts are simpler and low in diversity, this is the next step beyond that into fully understanding how each individual person reacts to what they're taking. 

"Strain is the next level. Species is like, ‘it’s a dog or cat,’ but strain is like ‘it's a Labrador or a bulldog,’ and that matters because the specific dog has different characteristics, different personalities. So, similarly, strains have different functions," said Sew Hoy. 

Different probiotics have different strain levels, because different strains have very different functions. Now, with strain tracking, if you're taking a supplement that is seeing some benefit for gut health, you can actually see if it's working or not in Tiny Health's tests. And since different companies have different standards, Tiny Health is trying to provide transparency in an industry that is often a little bit opaque.

"Especially when it comes to your child's health, you test, but you don't want to guess, you really want to know. That's why we've been seeing such success in the demand from parents and the growth that we're experiencing: it’s a testament to not just how comprehensive our test is, but ultimately how much it's really helping these families improve overall quality of life," Sew Hoy said. 


The transparency into supplements also plays into the other new feature launched by Tiny Health on Tuesday: its new B2B arm and partnership ecosystem, called Powered by Tiny, which will help companies validate the efficacy of their supplements through the use of Tiny Health kits.

That includes FDA-approved probiotics that are considered therapeutics, so they have to actually do what they say they will.

"It's basically probiotics, but put through the FDA route. So, phase I, phase II, phase III trials, like a drug development route, but they're microbial therapeutics. With our rich data set we're able to help these companies really figure out what potential microbial therapeutics would work for what subset of the population," Sew Hoy said.

At the moment Tiny Health isn't able to name specific partners, but it is currently working with nutrition companies, supplement companies, infant formula companies, and academic  partners for their clinical studies.

The new funding will go into expanding into this B2B arm to support clinical clients, and to expand into more wholesale relationships; that will also mean growing the partnerships team.

It's also going towards two clinical studies that Tiny Health is currently running to show that it's improving health outcomes, to eventually put it on a more insurance reimbursable path. It is currently HSA/FSA eligible.

Finally, it will go toward product development, including going further into strain tracking, which is currently in the first phase, which is about sharing probiotic strains and the impact of supplements.

The second phase will be to show different pathogenic strains.

"Everyone's heard of E. coli, but E. coli has different strains: some that are pathogenic, like virulent, some are neutral, some are even beneficial. So, if you have E coli, how do you know what is what? So, the next evolution of it will give you that level of sensitivity," said Sew Hoy.

"The third phase would be to show the family. So, if you're living with your girlfriend, how many microbes are you sharing because you're living in the same environment, eating the same foods? As opposed to living in the same household, but you're working at different locations and eating different foods, then your microbiome will be slightly different. So, we'll be able to show how much sharing there is between family members, and even roommates."

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