Joan Rothchild Hardin
New White House National Microbiome Initiative
It is now known that microbes have an enormous impact – for good or ill – on people’s health and the health of the entire planet. Two days ago, on May 13 2016, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy heeded the advice of scientists and launched a new National Microbiome Initiative. The program will foster interdisciplinary study of the various microbiomes found in and on the human body and across diverse ecosystems. (Nather, 2016)
The new National Microbiome Initiative will begin with a federal investment of $121 million in funding from several governmental agencies and additional private support from more than 100 outside organizations, including $100 million over four years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Initiative will include $20 million in new research grants from the National Institutes of Health, as well as $16 million from the National Science Foundation, $15.9 million from the Department of Agriculture, $12.5 million from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and $10 million from the Department of Energy.
As the FACT SHEET issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in its announcement of the National Microbiome Initiative states:
“There is no part of the human experience untouched by microorganisms. Microbiome science has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, agriculture, biomanufacturing, environmental management, and even building design and construction.” Microbiomes of the Human Body
The FACT SHEET explains why this Initiative is needed and its three main areas of focus:
“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:
Supporting interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.
Developing platform technologies that will generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.
Expanding the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.”
Click here to see an enlarged version of this graphic. This National Microbiome Initiative is much needed and will be an important part of President Obama’s legacy to the country and our planet.
Since microbes’ roles in keeping us healthy or making us ill fascinate me, I’m greatly looking forward to seeing what useful knowledge emerges from this National Microbiome Initiative.
REFERENCES MicrobialModus. (?). Graphic: Our Microbial Planet. See: https://microbialmodus.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/microbes_poster_large.gif Nather, D. (2016). Obama administration to launch microbiome initiative, heeding scientists’ calls. See: https://www.statnews.com/2016/05/12/national-microbiome-initiative/ White House OSTP. (5/13/2016). FACT SHEET: Announcing the National Microbiome Initiative. See: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/OSTP%20National%20Microbiome%20Initiative%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf © Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
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