Here at DayTwo, we love talking about the billions of bacteria in our gut, otherwise known as “the gut microbiome”. However, the microbiome is not exclusive to humans, let alone the human gut.
An exciting initiative has been taken on by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, known as the National Microbiome Initiative (NMI).
What is the aim of this initiative?
The NMI hopes to increase understanding of microbiomes in an attempt to further its application in areas like healthcare, food production and environmental restoration.
Why is the microbiome important?
A microbe is a living thing that is too small to be seen by the naked eye. In addition to bacteria, fungi and viruses also fit into the category. The congregation of these microbes into groups are known as microbiomes.
Microbiomes are not only found in the human gut. They exist in many other places, including humans, animals, crops, soils, ocean and more. Before viewing these populations as germs that can spread disease, this information can actually help us to understand and influence our environment and its effect on human health, climate change and other significant factors. For example, soil microbes can affect our farmlands, while oceanic microbes can affect the circulation of oxygen, carbons and other nutrients arounds the planet. This information is a lot larger and complex than honing in on the human microbiome.
How will the NMI help with the advancement of microbiome technology?
The NMI will focus on comparing microbiomes of different ecosystems to define specific principles that can be applied across the board of microbiomes. By understanding similarities between different microbiomes, we can develop parallel mechanisms to positively alter microbiomes in an effective manner.
Three goals of the NMI:
The NMI aims to support research, to create new technologies, and to get more people involved in microbiome studies.
What has been invested in the NMI?
According to the fact sheet that was released in May 2016, an initial federal investment of $121 million was made in funding from several agencies and included private support from over 100 outside organizations, including $100 million over four years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.