This week, a group of leading microbiome scientists proposed a Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI) “to discover and advance tools to understand and harness the capabilities of Earth’s microbial ecosystems.” Microorganisms inhabit almost every habitat on Earth and a better understanding of the dynamics of these habitats could lead to new innovations in all of these sectors.
The scientists argue that while there have been significant advances in understanding the diversity of microbial communities, they lack the tools and technologies to enable predictive and actionable understanding of global microbiome processes. They state that cross-disciplinary collaborations are needed between diverse constituents to develop these tools.
You can read about the details of the various tools and technologies that are proposed here, however they all involve developing technology platforms leading to more applied applications of microbiome science. Much of what they propose is an extension of existing technologies that would lead to better understanding of how microbial communities function.
As we wrote about last month, the White House is already paying close attention to the microbiome and considering what the best plan would be for such an initiative. Many of the authors on this proposal were in attendance at that White House meeting and are working in collaboration with Jo Handelsman and her team.
It is important that there be unified efforts as major technological advances would lead to broad advances among all of Earth’s habitats. While we talk mostly about the human microbiome on this blog, the microbiome of the ocean, soil, and countless other environments are vitally important to maintaining the world’s well being. We highly recommend that people take a look at the pieces in Science and Nature. We are excited about these proposals and look forward to seeing what type of initiatives come out of this.