Initiative to Harness Earth’s Microbiomes Put Forward by 48-Member US Consortium Including Prominent Scientists from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, & California NanoSystems Institute

A consortium of 48 scientists from 50 institutions in the United States – and including Pamela Silver, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University - is calling for a “Unified Microbiome Initiative” that would span national cross-institutional and cross-governmental agency support. The group, called the Unified Microbiome Initiative Consortium (UMIC), envisions that a coordinated effort would drive forward cutting-edge microbiome research, enabling breakthrough advances across medicine, ecosystem management, sustainable energy, and production of commodities. Their proposal was published in an open-access Policy Forum article in the October 30, 2015 issue of Science. The article is titled “A Unified Initiative to Harness Earth's Microbiomes.” Microbial life forms, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi, are the most diverse and abundant organisms on earth. They have shaped our evolutionary origins for billions of years and continue to have widespread impact on the planet, its environment, and the species inhabiting it. Together, they make up “microbiomes” that influence each other, the environment, and the host organisms that these microbial communities thrive in. The UMIC foresees that the microbiomes populating our planet and its many diverse species and environments could be leveraged through genetic engineering for applications that improve the greater good, and that many milestones could be reached on this front within ten years. "Microbes are everywhere. Therefore understanding microbiomes, whether they be the ones that live in and on our bodies or the ones in the environment, is essential to understanding life," said Dr. Silver.
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