White House calls for microbiome science support

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Probiotic

Industry stakeholders have expressed their support and excitement at a recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) national call to action for new public and private commitments to support microbiome science.

“The need for interdisciplinary research, new tools, and common standards to foster groundbreaking discoveries about microbiomes is essential to make progress in understanding and, eventually, managing microbiomes in all ecosystems,” stated the White House in a release​.

“Meeting these needs will require funding for basic and applied research that spans diverse areas, as well as the implementation of systematic mechanisms to provide opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas, and for collaborations for solving experimental challenges and answering complex questions.”

The White House’s interest in microbiome research may stem from President Obama’s appointment of Dr Jo Handelsman as associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2013​. Dr. Handelsman is an expert in communication among bacteria that associate with soil, plants, and insects and helped pioneer the field of metagenomics, bridging agricultural and medical sciences.


Mike Bush, senior vice president for Ganeden and executive board president for the International Probiotics Association, told us that the fact that the White House is placing an emphasis on gaining a deeper understanding of the microbiome and the role it plays in overall health is “fantastic”​. 

“As we learn more and more about what is actually happening in the gut and how the microbiome plays a role in things as diverse as mood, regularity, metabolic syndrome and even autism it becomes all the more important that we work as a scientific community to more fully understand the role and function of the microbiome,” ​said Bush.

“We take our hats off to the administration and encourage the scientific community to take full advantage of the opportunity to work in this exciting space.”


The White House listed possible new public and private commitments to support microbiome science as:

- Interdisciplinary centers that support projects tackling fundamental, cross-cutting questions and themes related to microbiome science.
- The development of platform technologies, reference libraries, and databases useful for microbiome research in all habitats.
- Grants, fellowships, internships, and cluster hires that promote interdisciplinary microbiome work among faculty and students.


Dr. Greg Leyer, UAS Labs Chief Scientific Officer, also welcomed the news, telling us: “UAS Labs is pleased to be one of the companies committed to advancing knowledge of the human microbiome. We are currently conducting a study on our UP4 Adult probiotic supplement in which we will measure general probiotic benefits and examine the microbiota composition at the beginning and end of the study between groups using our product versus the placebo. We applaud the White House for their efforts to support both the public and private work needed to move this important science forward.”


In a statement to NutraIngredients-USA, the International Probiotics Association said it applauds the initiative.

The microbiome has very far reaching and important implications for overall human health and wellbeing, and goes well beyond the gut. This project is large in scope and has the opportunity to attract experts from all areas of microbiome research, which will certainly help mature and enlarge the research within this realm.

“In that regard and considering IPA’s area of focus; providing live microbes to support health and wellness, IPA and its experts within the gut microbiome field are open to participate in any way that may help further progress this extremely important area of research.

“The International Probiotics Association (IPA) is an international organization with members coming from, academia, and industry. IPA’s mission is to bridge the gap of all stakeholders in the probiotic sector, including but not limited to scientists, researchers, academics, health care providers, industry, consumers and regulators and be the unique platform where all these entities interact in enabling the probiotic industry’s awareness and growth.IPA holds NGO status before Codex Alimentarius and is ‘The Global Voice of Probiotics’.”

The International Scientific Association for Prebiotics and Probiotics were equally supportive. A spokesperson for ISAPP told us: “This White House initiative reflects a recognition at the highest level of the tremendous potential of microbiome science. For this potential to be realized, however, the research has to be translated into meaningful interventions and recommendations. To do this, ISAPP agrees that an interdisciplinary approach is needed.

“One big hurdle for microbiome science is to understand tools that can safely and effectively manipulate the microbiome to promote health. ISAPP’s focus on probiotics and prebiotics – two promising means to invoke microbiome-mediated benefits - uniquely positions it to provide valuable input into this White House effort.

“ISAPP has a large network of experts in probiotic, prebiotic and microbiome science that can be leveraged to facilitate progress. By fostering interactions among clinical, academic and industrial scientists, we can help develop priorities for research and translational efforts.​”

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