Microbiome Research Initiative for Futuristic Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologies


Microbiomes gain the spotlight as White House offers $121 million for research and development of microbiome based therapeutics and diagnostic technologies.

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) of White House has joined hands with several private sector stakeholders and Federal Agencies to launch the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) for better understanding of microbiomes.


The microbiome Enigma

Microbiome is a collective term referring to trillions of microorganisms dwelling on plants, soil, water, air and people. They play an integral role in proper functioning of our eco-system. They could regulate food security, control pollution, climate and several other factors mandatory for a regular and peaceful life. Our human system is a host for around 100 trillion such organisms in our gut, intestinal walls, mucosal surfaces and skin, supporting us on digestion, preventing pathogen invasion, synthesizing essential nutrients and a wide variety of other functions for smooth functioning of our body.  

Any changes in microbiomes would greatly alter our cellular metabolism paving way for disorders or their progression. It is estimated that such changes are responsible for several chronic diseases such as obesity, asthma and diabetes. Production industries such as biofuel production and food processing technologies highly rely on these microbiomes. However, the molecular mechanisms behind these organisms remain an enigma till today.  


The pioneers

Realizing the significance of these microbiomes several start-ups initiated the research.  

second genome microbiome companySecond Genome, founded in 2009, is a clinical stage company which focuses on microbiome related therapeutics as core area of their research. Currently they are investigating SGM-109 (in Phase I) for the development of therapy against the inflammatory bowel disease known as Ulcerative Colitis. It has received $42.6 million from Pharma giants Roche and Pfizer in a series B round.

seres usa microbiome companyThe Cambridge based Seres Therapeutics altered the patient’s bacterial set-up for generating drug targets for Clostridium difficile infections raised $134 million in 2015.

janssen biotech logovedanta bioscience microbiomeJanssen Biotech, a subsidiary of J&J has struck a deal with Vedanta Biosciences on a microbiome treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. It has promised up to $241 million in future on success of its partnership in the global market.

enterome france logoEnterome, a company headquartered in Paris, France is actively working on developing therapeutics based on Human gut microbiome.


Objectives of NMI

The powerful National Microbiome Initiative organised by the USA Government has planned to focus on:

  1. Forming platform technologies to create insights, share information on microbiomes and promote easy access to the  microbiome data available.
  2. Adopt interdisciplinary research approach to unravel the molecular mechanisms of the microbiomes in different ecosystems.
  3. Expand the microbiome workforce by promoting public engagement, citizen science, and educational opportunities.

The following Units have agreed to team up and launch a combined investment by Federal agency worth more than $121 million by  2016 and 2017 for cross-ecosystem microbiome studies:

  • The National Institutes of Health, USA will contribute an additional $20 million into microbiome research for analysing multiple eco-systems and developing new tools to understand microbiomes in a better way.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA will be granting $15.9 million to promote insilico facilities of microbiome research and a further $8 million to carry out research on  plants, livestock animals, fish, soil, air, and water microbiomes, under National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USA.
  • The National Science Foundation, USA has decided to grant $16 million for microbiome research involving various cross-ecosystems by 2017.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA offers $12.5 million over multiple years for expansion of this study across ecosystems of Earth and space.
  • The Department of Energy, USA proposes $10 million by 2017 for advancing interdisciplinary research.

Owing to the request by Office of Science and Technology Policy’s request more than 100 private concerns came forward with funding for the programme. The most prominent ones include:

The press statement from White House states,“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.

Owing to such gigantic investments great breakthroughs in microbiome research can be expected in near future.

Featured image credit: Landscape of exotic planets. Microbes under microscope. © VladNikon (Stock Photo ID: 125920439)

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