Novel Microbials for Healthy Humans, Animals and Ecosystems
Microbiome research is among the most exciting and promising areas of science today due to technological advances that allow the determination of which microbes are present and gain insights into their metabolism. Only recently has there been widespread recognition of the profound influence of the human microbiome on health and disease (i.e., cancer, obesity, diabetes, autism, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease) leading to a new generation of medicines based on natural microbials. Initial clinical forays into microbiome manipulation have mainly occurred in the global probiotic market that is estimated at $54 billion for 2020. The Commonwealth's strength in biotechnology makes it a natural home to new startups and established pharmaceutical companies looking to develop the next wave therapeutics for human health and disease and probiotics to improve animal health and nutrition. The scientific goal of our research is to define the interactions between microbes, their hosts, and the unique environments that drive these ecological systems. Elucidation of these interactions will require new technologies, computational tools, and an interdisciplinary approach, which together will permit researchers to begin to understand the molecular bases underlying the adaptations and interactions of the communities of life. Research strengths include the application of omic technologies and emerging computational methods to microbial communities, which coupled with anaerobic culturing facilities, have enabled the discovery and isolation of novel microbes. These microbes are the basis of federal grants, start up companies, successful and small business innovation research and I-Corp grants, contracts that have led to patent applications, and are going through animal trials. This research and our industry collaborations help established the Center for Microbiome Research with UMMS and are an integral part of our NSF Research Traineeship proposal “Engineering Healthy Microbiomes”.