︎ Biodesign Challenge Summit 2018 Finalist 
︎ RISD Biodesign: From inspiration to integration
︎Role: research, visual design and animation


bactoyou™ is a microbial time machine that empowers its users to collect, sequence, explore, and bac-up their previous microbial states; By creating a historical database of their microbiome over time, we allow users to “jump back in time” and reconstitute their present gut microbiome based on specific previous states.


1. Landscape Research
Our microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria; most are collected from our surroundings and the food we eat, many are passed down through generations, and some might even come from the person sitting next to you. It is still unknown how the microbiome works exactly, yet we do know it influences us in many ways. For example:

︎Factors that affect human’s gut microbiome  situation

Going through the current technological solutions for sequencing DNA, we learned about some existing devices that make this possible. But the problem is that they are all very tech-centered and are all designed to be used by the scientists and experts. So we decided we wanted the blend the current technology into some solution that is more human-centered.

University of Helsinki

MinION Oxford Nanopore Technologies

Microfluidic chip Brigham Young University

Microfluidic paper Wyss Institute

2. Data use, Protocol and System

︎Current systems at place

Current systems at place are company oriented. Meaning that users buy their services and those companies retain the right of using users’ data. The more the user, the larger the database. These companies use their user database to make profits from research while users share nothing from these profits.

The greater we increase the user database, the faster knowledge will advance. As designers, we are here to make sure that, in this process, users remain at the center of the operation. bactoyou™ is trying to establish a protocol in the microbiome so that users will always be aware of the research, accessing the benefits, and enjoying a healthier life.

︎bactoyou™ data use protocol
︎bactoyou™ full service system map

Through this service, we aim to inform users of the importance and possibilities that their microbiome data holds for future health and well-being, while at the same time promoting behavioral change towards a healthier way to relate with our bacterial self. bactoyou™ intersects society at the boundaries of globalization, science and health. Our mission is both to help people understand and benefit directly from science and to help scientists thrive and benefit from public interest and participation in science.


1. The Home Sequencer

From all the current technologies, the way MinION functioned attracted our attention because relatively, It’s a more user friendly solution with a lot of advantages. Being inspired by its technology we started developing ideas around how we can translate that to a domestic object that would come into our lives and merge with the existing restroom ritual. We decided we would add it to a toilet paper holder and make the sampling, part of the pooping process.

︎Preliminary sketches to explore ideas

We want to integrate the cutting edge technology of sequencing poop samples into users’ existing restroom ritual. These are the results we landed on. There are three different versions of the product: 

︎Prototype renderings

As we mainly designed the product having the western user in mind, we also observed the different cultural requirements knowing that not everyone uses the toilet in the same way. As a result we designed the squat version for people who don’t use toilet papers in order for them to make the sampling possible with a cotton swab instead. 

︎Taking cultural factors into consideration

2. bac-up pad

The pad slot on the sequencer will push out a bac-up pad after being activated. The user can then takes the pad for sampling and send bac to the intake slot of the sequencer. 
︎5 easy steps of using the bac-up pad

3. bac-up pills

bactoyou™ users can order their customized bac-up pills based on any chosen reports from their bac-up time machine. The bac-up pills contains the duplicate of a user’s gut microbiome as it was on the selected date. The bac-up pill is the perfect way for users to regain their lost bacteria. 

︎bac-up pills packaging 


For immediate benefits, there will be raised awareness of the relationship bt a person’s health and the bacteria living in his body; 
For the short term benefits, we are looking at behavioral change that the society will overcome the resistance of working with stools; 
For the longer term benefits, as users gradually build up their own database, users will be able to monitor the changes that’s happening to their bodies.


As we were developing the project as a group of designers, we got in touch and got many feedbacks and comments from some experts in the microbiome science field. Our project was very well received as an extremely promising concept. However, we know that in order to make this prefered future come true, we will have to collaborate with scientists, technologists and people from many other fields. We sincerely hope and will make all efforts to keep this project rolling. 

Prof. MD.  Martin Blaser  
Director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU School of Medicine
“I like this project very much. These students have captured an approach to process, in which the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Injecting their new ideas helps keep this field moving ahead, and can catalyze many future (and currently unknowable) innovations.”

Dr.  Daniel McDonald  
Scientific Director of the American Gut Project Spokesman, Rob Knight lab.
“I love the concept, it’s like poop combined with Apple Time Machine.” 

Dr. Mathijs Bergman
Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems
“With increasing knowledge on the correlation between gut microbiome and obesity, anxiety and depression, bactoyou™ offers the possibility to go back to the composition of the microflora even in case of psychological complaints in the time that these complaints did not yet occur.”

Dr. Amanda Hurley  
Postdoctoral Researcher at Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, former Molecular Biology researcher at Princeton University
“bactoyou will revolutionize personalized medicine.”

Prof. Leendert Hamoen
General Microbiology, University of Amsterdam
“With bactoyou physical and mental data can be linked to the system, eventually correlating these variables to microbiome dynamics.”

Associate Prof. Davida Smyth
Chair Natural Sciences at Mercy College
“It's so NY. You can get everything delivered to your door, your food, your laundry .... and now your own customized poop pill .... Back to the Poopture.”

Team:  Yuxin Cheng, Juliette Van Haren, Arian Ghousi, Ignacio Garnham Brandes. Special thanks to Jane Pirone, Jennifer Wightman, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Angelica.S.Jang , Lisa Norton and Katayoun Chamany, for your ongoing and generous help and support
©yuxincheng 2015-2019