Corey Goodman sees financial opportunity in strange places, specifically the human bowel. In 2010 the former president of Pfizer’s innovation center founded Second Genome, a company dedicated to identifying the varieties of bacteria in stool samples and manipulating them to improve human health. Goodman’s start-up has raised millions of dollars from venture capitalists. Earlier this year, Johnson and Johnson partnered with Second Genome, becoming the first big pharma company to invest heavily in the microbiome.
There are good reasons the smart money may be on researching human waste. Describing the microbiome could lead to treatments for conditions like celiac disease and the nebulous but widespread irritable bowel syndrome. Even more lucrative would be a new weight loss medication. The market for weight loss products is worth more than $60 billion, although recent sales data suggest that Americans have lost interest in traditional diet pills.