The Obama administration announced this morning a public-private initiative to study the collections of microorganisms that live on or in humans and practically everywhere else on Earth. More than 100 other institutions are joining the administration with funding and resources in what’s being billed as the National Microbiome Initiative.
The microbiome has become a subject of intense research to delve into the complex interplay between humans and the trillions of organisms we host. The research could have profound implications for human health, and a handful of biotech and pharma companies have pushed microbiome-related therapies into clinical trials. The most advanced work is in diseases of the gut, such as bacterial infections and autoimmune conditions. The field has also attracted so-called “citizen science” efforts that ask donors and others to provide microbiome samples for analysis.
The Obama administration has made a priority of high-profile initiatives in areas of cutting edge science and medicine, such as cancer, brain research, Alzheimer’s disease, and precision medicine, counting on a national spotlight to bolster what are relatively modest amounts of proposed funding.
In this case, the White House aims to free up $121 million across the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years for several government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA, to study microbiome ecosystems in humans and beyond.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced $100 million in funding, as well. Other participants include the University of Michigan, the University of California San Diego, and One Codex, which won a Centers for Disease Control prize last year for its genomic search engine.
Photo of White House by jason goulding via Creative Commons license.