National Microbiome Initiative Launches

Posted on May 13, 2016

Alexandria, Va., USA – Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will hold an event to announce the official launch of the National Microbiome Initiative. Microbiomes are communities of microorganisms that live on and in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere. Microbiomes maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems, influencing diverse features of the planet—human health, climate change, and food security. During the event, the Administration will announce steps to advance the understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function, including by investigating fundamental principles that govern microbiomes across diverse ecosystems, and developing new tools to study microbiomes. 

This past year, the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) worked, on behalf of its members, with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to highlight the importance and value of the oral microbiome. 

The oral microbiome is unique, accessible and highly amenable to modulation, compared to the microbiomes at other body sites. In the next several years, the breakthroughs in knowledge and technology already in progress will offer tremendous new opportunities to control the most common diseases of mankind—dental caries and periodontitis—as well as their deleterious effects on systemic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth and others. The lessons learned from the oral microbiome as a model system will furthermore inform work on other diseases at other body sites. 

AADR Institutional Section Member The Forsyth Institute included a new commitment for oral microbiome research as part of the National Microbiome Initiative. Specifically, Forsyth will dedicate up to $100,000 per year for three years for pilot grant funding for novel microbiome projects. This multi-year commitment to invest in groundbreaking projects in its newly formed Host-Microbiome Center will provide funding to support exploratory or proof-of-principle studies for which no other funding sources are available. Such studies must have the potential to develop into full-fledged research projects that test new paradigms, and can lead to intellectual property, and NIH or other extramural funding.  

"The Forsyth Institute is honored to be able to participate in the National Microbiome Initiative through the Massachusetts Host-Microbiome Center at Forsyth," said Forsyth President & CEO Phil Stashenko, D.M.D., Ph.D. "This newly-formed Center focuses on five areas of investigation, including new ways to: re-engineer the oral microbiome as well as modulate host inflammatory responses; use defined microbial (gnotobiotic) systems to study crosstalk between the oral microbiome and the immune response; characterize microbial activities using metatranscriptomics that contribute to health or disease; define the 'geography' of the oral microbiome to identify bacterial partnerships vs antagonisms; and the replacement of pathogens with commensal bacteria using pre- and probiotics. I believe that these efforts have great potential to lead to a reduction in the burden of oral diseases on the population, improve overall health, and further reduce health inequalities."  

"We are extremely pleased by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy support of microbiome research," said AADR President Jack L. Ferracane, Ph.D. "Given the enormous opportunities, we hope the National Microbiome Initiative will spur Congress to provide increased federal investments to all fields of microbiome research including to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for research on the oral microbiome. NIDCR funds a community resource providing comprehensive information on more than 700 different microbial species present in the oral cavity. Increased federal investments in oral microbiome research will lead to a better understanding of the two most common diseases affecting the population–dental caries and periodontal disease." 

AADR will live tweet from today's National Microbiome Initiative launch event. Follow AADR @DentalResearch and #microbiome to follow the conversation. The OSTP event will be live streamed from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. EDT at

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