Microbiome-related factors are increasingly linked to disease and treatment outcomes, particularly in cancer. The gut microbiome in particular has been associated with gastrointestinal disorders, and the incidence of cancer and the efficacy of its treatment. Thus, deciphering the taxonomic composition and functional significance of the microbiome in human health is a key component for the NIH, and likely has the potential to change how we will diagnose and treat a diversity of diseases in the future, including cancer. The study of human microbiomes is a complex undertaking, requiring state-of-the-art methodology in DNA sequencing, a multitude of ?omic methodologies, imaging, cultivation and bioinformatics. The multidisciplinary nature of microbiome research and its importance to human health has led to the establishment of microbiome centers at multiple institutions across the US. These microbiome centers occur at universities, research institutes, and national labs and often network biologists across disciplines with computational experts, serving as a local research and education nexus. With over 40 microbiome centers now established, we propose a conference to link these centers. We suggest that having a network of centers will facilitate research, standardize research practices, promote research rigor and reproducibility, and enhance educational opportunities. We propose to host a conference at the University of Chicago in Jun 2020, just prior to the American Society of Microbiology. The 1.5 day conference will focus on how a network of microbiome centers would serve researchers, what the objectives of a network might be, and how a network would be structured. We will showcase several examples of collaborative efforts that have been productive in microbiomes and human health and host a working group to examine how collaborations among NIH researchers can be enhanced. A working group specifically focused on developing a microbiome center network, modeled on other successful networks, will also be convened. Our conference will include undergraduate and graduate student interns, and specific funding for junior faculty that aim to develop into leadership roles. We will advertise the Conference broadly to existing societies and groups that encompass those underrepresented in science to enhance participation.
The importance of the microbiome to human health, including the treatment of cancer and other diseases, has become increasingly apparent. As a result, over 40 microbiome centers have been established nationally. We propose a conference to discuss how to network these centers to facilitate research, education and to bring together the disparate disciplines needed for ground-breaking microbiome research.