What's Lurking in Your Microbiome? Possibly, a Cure for Disease

Jon Gertner

Startups are harnessing the trillions of bacteria inside us to eradicate diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and more.

The epicenter of the U.S. biotechnology business is just north of San Francisco International Airport, on a few dozen isolated acres wedged between U.S. 101 and San Francisco Bay. Unless there’s a good reason to visit one of the companies here—Genentech, for instance, or Amgen—you might write off the neighborhood as an especially dull office park. There are no upscale stores or open-air cafés; no Uber drivers circling around; no hoodie-clad twentysomethings hauling day packs. Here, one quiet avenue leads to another, lined with sleek glass buildings that get buzzed by low-flying jets and rattled by breezes whipping off the bay. But within a quarter-mile radius, hundreds of the world’s leading scientists are pushing the envelope of medicine, vying to create novel cures for disease. Some of them, in fact, work beyond the vanguard—in areas of drug development so new they don’t yet have a proper name.

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