White House announces $121 million National Microbiome Initiative

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Image: © iStockPhoto Sean Pavone
Image: © iStockPhoto Sean Pavone

Related tags President of the united states

The Obama administration announced a multi-million investment to accelerate better understanding of microbiomes in all fields of the life sciences. 

A call to action made last February​ may finally come to fruition: A White House press release from May 13 officially announced​ the National Microbiome Initiative.

The $121 million federal initiative will “foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems,” ​the administration said in a press release. It is a collaboration between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders.

Multiple disciplines

According to the White House press release, the three main goals of the initiative are to support interdisciplinary research, develop platform technologies, and expand the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public engagement, and educational opportunities.

The combined Federal agency investment is proposed to be upwards of $121 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017, composed of $10 million in new funding for the Department of Energy, a proposed $12.5 million for The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an extra $20 million from The National institutes of Health, $16 million from The National Science Foundation, and more than $15.9 million from The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Little is known about how they interact with each other and with their host,”​ the MIT Technology Review’s Mike Orcutt reported​ on the initiative’s launch. “Shedding light on this fundamental question will be essential to developing therapies or other technologies meant to fix dysfunctional ones.”

Growing interest all around

During an interview in February this year, Mike Bush, senior vice president for Ganeden and executive board president for the International Probiotics Association (IPA) told NutraIngredients-USA​ that it is a fantastic thing that the White House is placing an emphasis on gaining a deeper understanding of the microbiome.

“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,”​ he said.

Interest in microbiomes is gaining traction. Since the OSTP announced its call to action earlier this year, many institutions have invested in microbiome research, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The University of Michigan, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Procter and Gamble.

Around the same time as the initiative’s announcement, food giant Nestlé announced it will invest approximately CHF10 million​ (about the same as US$10 million) in joint projects with the Imperial College London to gain greater understanding of the microbiome and how gut bacteria influence physical and mental health.

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