Last week the American Microbiome Institute was invited to the White House to attend the Microbiome Innovation: Roadmap to the Future conference. The conference was hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is embracing microbiome science and its promise to revolutionize various fields of research, such as health, medicine, agriculture, ecology, and more. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together representatives from industry, academia, government, foundations, and non-profits in order to come to a consensus and identify the major roadblocks that are obstructing microbiome science, across all disciplines.
Various agencies from the federal government kicked off the conference by discussing how microbiome science was important to their departments, such as the NSF, USAID, and NIH. These talks prompted a lively discussion regarding C. difficile treatment and fecal microbiota transplants, and how the FDA should regulate them. After, working groups were formed to debate and discuss important issues to the field. For example, groups were tasked with defining a healthy microbiome, but the consensus was that this was difficult because of its dependency on the host. In addition, groups discussed ways in which interdisciplinary microbiome research could be encouraged. Two approaches that were recommended to incentivize this were to require grants to include an interdisciplinary component, and to have academic promotion and tenure reward PIs that perform this type of research.
We at the AMI would like to thank the folks at OSTP for inviting us to the conference. We actively participated in the discussions to let people know the areas that we have identified as needs, and the things that we are trying to do at the AMI to solve them. As a non-profit devoted to the microbiome we have a unique perspective on the field, and a mandate to advance it.