Well, I guess this means microbiome engineering has arrived (sort of)

Just got pointed (by Laurie Garrett) to this call for proposals from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Addressing Newborn and Infant Gut Health Through Bacteriophage-Mediated Microbiome Engineering.

Some key lines from the call:

  • A growing body of evidence suggests that healthy gut function early in life plays a significant role in adult wellbeing.
  • It is further becoming increasingly clear that the gut microbiome in newborns and infants plays a significant role in gut health and therefore child development.
  • We are therefore looking for an innovative new way of manipulating and evaluating the gut microbiome in newborns and infants, with a particular focus on reducing environmental enteropathy in low-resource settings.
  • Such studies can be enabled by the development of a tool that would allow the specific perturbation of native microbiome communities in newborns and infants.
  • Bacteriophage-based strategies may address many of the challenges above,
  • The goal of this topic is to support all stages of development of bacteriophage-mediated strategies for microbiome engineering in children under two years of age, as a means to reduce the number of cases of environmental enteropathy in low-resource settings.

For more see the call.

I like many of hte ideas implied in this call.  I think they are right that there is enormous potential in using phage as a means to manipulate microbiomes.  There is still an enormous amount of work to be done in this area, but glad to see the Gates Foundation pushing it forward.  And though this call is focused on human microbiomes I think the same concept could be applied to other animal microbiomes, to plant microbiomes, to microbial communities including, for example, those of our built environment.


Leave a Reply

Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.