Kassam’s interest in the field of FMT was inspired by a patient he met during his gastroenterology fellowship at McMaster University in Canada. After failing her 6th round of antibiotics to treat her C. difficile, the patient agreed to Kassam’s suggestion that she try FMT. “Within 48 hours she was cured and back to gardening,” remembers Kassam. “It was the closest thing to a miracle I’d seen in medicine, and I wondered why not everyone was doing it.”
After a systematic review of relevant literature, Kassam realized that no one had completed the high-quality FMT trials that would be necessary to get doctors and patients using this treatment widely. So he headed south to Harvard and MIT to gain training in these trials, and ended up joining MIT spinout OpenBiome, the world’s first non-profit stool bank.
“OpenBiome is a non-profit stool bank that provides safe, ready-to-use frozen human stool for FMT,” explains Zain. “Think of it like a blood bank but for stool.”
OpenBiome has a dual mission to provide safe FMT and accelerate research. As CMO of OpenBiome, Kassam has developed the best-in-class safety protocols; only 2.8% of candidate donors pass the safety program that he developed. “Having graduated from Harvard, I can say it’s easier to get into Harvard then be an OpenBiome poop donor!”
Kassam and OpenBiome continue to research new diseases that could be treated by FMT, ranging from ulcerative colitis to obesity. “I’m helping to co-lead 13 enrolling clinical trials across a range of diseases—accounting for over 50% of all FMT studies in the US—in the hopes to harness the power of poop, and make an impact on patient lives.”
Abigail Ballou, Alexandra David, Shreya Iyer and Casey Nugent contributed to this story.
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