We are not alone. Each of us carries a wide array of microbial species that outnumber our cells tenfold. Recent studies have shown that the complement of microorganisms, the microbiome, is an important determinant of human health and disease. The microbiomes of other animals, plants, soil, bodies of water, and the atmosphere play similarly important roles. Our understanding of the diversity and roles of these microbiomes is limited, a fact that led the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to launch the National Microbiome Initiative last year. Stakeholders, including the University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison, have responded with new commitments to develop a comprehensive understanding of microbiomes across all ecosystems. A new UW–Madison Microbiome Initiative comes with $1 million in grant funding administered by the vice chancellor for research and graduate education to support interdisciplinary research, infrastructure, and research community enhancements related to the microbiome. “Microbiome science has the potential to revolutionize areas such as health care, agriculture, biomanufacturing, environmental management, and more,” says Marsha Mailick (photo), Ph.D., UW–Madison’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. “The potential of microbiome research is enormous — it could create revolutionary technologies. By providing seed funding for microbiome projects at UW–Madison, we hope to position our faculty to be more competitive when applying for federal funding for their research in this area.” “Microbes influence our everyday existence in immeasurable ways. They are master chemists who have provided us with the air that we breathe.
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