The federal government said today it plans to spend $121 million this federal fiscal year and next toward advancing the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems.

The spending is part of a public–private National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) announced by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders.

During a year of talks, researchers from the federal government, academic institutions, and businesses hammered out three priorities for the new initiative:

  • Support interdisciplinary research to answer fundamental questions about microbiomes in diverse ecosystems.
  • Develop platform technologies intended to generate insights and help share knowledge of microbiomes in diverse ecosystems and enhance access to microbiome data.
  • Expand the microbiome workforce through citizen science, public  engagement, and educational opportunities.

“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 White House said in a statement.

More than 100 academic and research institutions today announced new microbiome research efforts. The largest of these has The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spending $100 million over 4 years to research and develop tools for studying human and agricultural microbiomes.

On the technology side, One Codex plans to launch a public portal for microbiome data, allowing greater access for researchers, clinicians, and other health professionals.

Other external research efforts highlighted by the White House are:

  • University of California, San Diego—$12 million toward The Center for Microbiome Innovation, to help technology developers connect with end users.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)—$10 million over 5 years toward microbiome research related to type 1 diabetes.
  • University of Michigan—$3.5 million on research by undergraduate students through the Michigan Microbiome Project, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Procter & Gamble.
  • BioCollective LLC and the Health Ministries Network—$250,000 toward building a microbiome data and sample bank and promoting more microbiome research by members of underrepresented groups.

Additionally, five federal agencies announced proposed funding commitments for new NMI-related projects:

  • Department of Energy—$10 million in FY 2017 to support collaborative, interdisciplinary research on the microbiome.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration—$12.5 million “over multiple years” to expand microbiome research on earth and in space.
  • NIH—$20 million toward microbiome research grants in FY 2016 and FY 2017, with emphasis on multiecosystem comparison studies and design of new tools.
  • National Science Foundation—$16 million in FY 2017 for microbiome research “that spans the spectrum of ecosystems, species, and biological scales.”
  • Department of Agriculture—More than $15.9 million in FY 2017 to expand computational capacities for microbiome research and human microbiome research through the Agricultural Research Service, plus approximately $8 million for FY 2017 to support studies through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the microbiomes of plants, livestock animals, fish, soil, air, and water as they influence food production.
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