White House launches #Microbiome initiative!

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, is announcing a new National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) to foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems, and is hosting an event to bring together stakeholders vital to advancing the NMI.

Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems, influencing human health, climate change, food security, and other factors. Dysfunctional microbiomes are associated with issues including human chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma; local ecological disruptions such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico; and reductions in agricultural productivity. Numerous industrial processes such as biofuel production and food processing depend on healthy microbial communities. Although new technologies have enabled exciting discoveries about the importance of microbiomes, scientists still lack the knowledge and tools to manage microbiomes in a manner that prevents dysfunction or restores healthy function.

The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function. In a year-long fact-finding process, scientists from Federal agencies, academia, and the private sector converged on three recommended areas of focus for microbiome science, which are now the goals of the NMI:

  1. Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.
  2. Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.
  3. Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.

The NMI builds on strong and ongoing Federal investments in microbiome research, and will launch with a combined Federal agency investment of more than $121 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 and 2017 funding for cross-ecosystem microbiome studies. This includes:

  • The Department of Energy proposes $10 million in new funding in FY 2017 to support collaborative, interdisciplinary research on the microbiome.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)proposes $12.5 million in new funding over multiple years to expand microbiome research across Earth’s ecosystems and in space.
  • The National Institutes of Health will invest an extra $20 million into microbiome research in grants in FY 2016 and FY 2017 with a particular emphasis on multi-ecosystem comparison studies and investigation into design of new tools to explore and understand microbiomes.
  • The National Science Foundation proposes $16 million in FY 2017 for microbiome research that spans the spectrum of ecosystems, species, and biological scales.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposes more than $15.9 million for FY 2017 to expand computational capacities for microbiome research and human microbiome research through the Agricultural Research Service, and approximately $8 million for FY 2017 to support investigations through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the microbiomes of plants, livestock animals, fish, soil, air, and water as they influence food-production systems.

In addition, following OSTP’s national call to action issued in January, more than 100 external institutions are today announcing new efforts to support microbiome science. These include:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $100 million over 4 years to investigate and develop tools to study human and agricultural microbiomes.
  • JDRF will invest $10 million over 5 years to address microbiome research related to type 1 diabetes.
  • The University of California, San Diego, is investing $12 million in The Center for Microbiome Innovation to enable technology developers to connect with end users.
  • One Codex is launching a public portal for microbiome data, allowing greater access to this data for researchers, clinicians, and other health professionals.
  • The BioCollective, LLC, along with the Health Ministries Network, are investing $250,000 towards building a microbiome data and sample bank, and the engagement of underrepresented groups in microbiome research.
  • The University of Michigan, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Procter and Gamble, will invest $3.5 million in the Michigan Microbiome Project to provide new research experiences for undergraduate students.

Click here to learn more about Federal involvement in microbiome research, and about all of the commitments and announcements being made today.

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Superbugs!! The Empire Strike Bacteria – @Okaytobesmart video! #science

Superbugs: The Empire Strikes Bacteria

Are we entering the post-antibiotic era? Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise, with millions of infections reported every year and thousands of deaths. How does antibiotic resistance work? How did we get here? And what can we do in the future to make sure that papercuts don’t spell a death sentence?

New interactive map shows the germs at your local NYC subway stop! Fun… and scary!! #science

sub

Check out this awesome interactive map of the bacteria in New York City’s subway system (from the Wall Street Journal)!! The map is one of the results of a huge project looking at bacteria and other germs and microbiology in the City’s transit system! Above I took a screenshot of the map for the subway station next to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital at 168th St, including 108 bacteria that can cause all sorts of problems – including antibiotic resistant bacteria! This is a super fun tool…. unless you’re a germaphobe, in which case it is horrifying  :/

Every day, New York City’s 5.5 million commuters seed the city subways with bacteria from the food they eat, the pets or plants they keep, and their shoes, sneezes and unwashed hands.

For the first time, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College sampled DNA in New York City’s 466 open subway stations. They found genetic material from 15,152 different species, most of them harmless or unidentified. Almost half the DNA belonged to bacteria. No two subway stations were exactly the same, and the research continues.

So far, the scientists have identified 67 bacteria species associated with disease and infections. Here are details on a few of the bacteria found.