US launches $121m microbiome initiative

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 16 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2752
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. Seattle

Over the next two years, the US will fund a $121m initiative to promote research into microbiome research and expand the number of people working in the field, the White House announced on 13 May.1

The National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) will fund research into the communities of microorganisms that make up the microbiomes of a variety of ecosystems—including those in plants, soil, and oceans, as well as those that exist in and on humans.

In recent years there has been increasing interest how healthy, balanced microbiomes help maintain the normal functioning of different ecosystems and what role they play when ecosystems are damaged, including what role they may play in human disorders such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. “The NMI aims to advance understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function,” the White House said.

The initiative would support interdisciplinary research, develop technologies to enhance access to and sharing of microbiome data, and expand the microbiome workforce.

The initiative would allow the US National Institutes of Health, which has a longstanding Human Microbiome Project, to increase its research grant funding by an additional $20m in 2016 and 2017.

More than 100 institutions had promised to support the effort, the White House said, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—which promised to invest $100m over four years to investigate and develop tools to study human and agricultural microbiomes—and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation—which will invest $10m over five years to investigate the role microbiomes play in type 1 diabetes.


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