|NIH Expands Human Microbiome Project; Funds Sequencing Centers and Disease Projects
The Human Microbiome Project has awarded more
than $42 million to expand its exploration of how the trillions
of microscopic organisms that live in or on our bodies affect
our health, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced
The human microbiome is all the microorganisms that reside in
or on the human body, as well as all their DNA, or genomes. Launched
in 2007 as part of the NIH Common Fund’s Roadmap for Medical Research,
the Human Microbiome Project is a $140 million, five-year effort
that will produce a resource for researchers who are seeking to
use information about the microbiome to improve human health.
"This effort will accelerate our understanding of how our
bodies and microorganisms interact to influence health and disease," said
Acting NIH Director Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. "Examining
the differences between the microbiomes of healthy patients and
those of patients suffering from a disease promises to change how
we diagnose, treat and, ultimately, prevent many health conditions."
In the new round of funding, the Human Microbiome Project will
support the work of the large-scale DNA sequencing centers that
participated in the initial phase of the project. These centers
will work together to sequence at least 400 microbial genomes.
Another approximately 500 microbial genomes are already completed
or in sequencing pipelines and supported by individual NIH institutes
and internationally funded projects. These data will then be used
to characterize the microbial communities found in samples taken
from healthy human volunteers. These samples are currently being
collected by the Human Microbiome Project from five areas of the
body: the digestive tract, the mouth, the skin, the nose and the
The Human Microbiome Project’s large-scale sequencing centers,
their principal investigators and approximate funding levels over
four years are:
Human Genome Sequencing Center, Baylor College of Medicine,
Richard Gibbs, Ph.D.; $3.7 million
Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, Washington
University School of Medicine, Saint Louis
Ph.D.; $16.1 million
The J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, Md.,
L. Strausberg, Ph.D.; $8.8 million
This center is being
funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The ARRA funds that support this center will provide a much needed
investment to spur advances in the understanding of how microorganisms
that live in or on our bodies affect our health.
In addition, the Broad Institute of MIT/ Harvard, Cambridge, Mass.,
which participated in the jumpstart phase of the Human Microbiome
Project, is expected to participate in this phase of the project.
The Human Microbiome Project is also funding new pilot demonstration
projects by researchers that will sample the microbiomes of healthy
volunteers and volunteers with specific diseases over the next
year. This will allow researchers to study changes in the microbiome
at particular body sites that are healthy or affected by diseases.
These studies will use samples collected from seven areas of the
body: the digestive tract, the mouth, the skin, the nose, the vagina,
the blood and the male urethra.
The pilot demonstration projects listed by principal investigator,
body site (s), disease focus and approximate funding levels are:
Martin J. Blaser, M.D., New York University School of Medicine
This study will assess whether changes in the skin microbiome may
contribute to psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease.
Gregory A. Buck, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
Vagina: Bacterial Vaginosis and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
This study will look at changes in the vaginal microbiome and its
association with environmental factors, diseases and a woman’s
J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., Indiana University Purdue University
Male urethra: Puberty, Sexual Activity and Sexually Transmitted
Samples will be collected from an ethnically diverse group of male
adolescents to characterize the male urethral microbiome and its
relation to puberty, sexual activity and sexually transmitted disease.
Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, Ph.D., University of Maryland
School of Medicine, Baltimore
Digestive tract: Obesity
This study will sample the gut microbiome from obese
and non-obese subjects from the Amish population to uncover associations
with metabolism, inflammation, and other traits related to obesity.
It will also study the influence of human genetic variation on
the composition of the microbiome.
Digestive tract: Crohn’s Disease
The relationship between the inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s
disease, the intestinal microbiome, and bacterial proteins will
be explored in samples from pairs of twins with and without the
Ellen Li, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University School of
Medicine, Saint Louis
Digestive tract: Crohn’s Disease
This study will analyze the intestinal microbiome and disease subjects’ genetic
factors to uncover relationships with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory
Huiying Li, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
The goal of this study is to examine the association between the
skin microbiome and acne.
Zhiheng Pei, M.D., Ph.D., New York University School of
Mouth and digestive tract: Esophageal Adenocarcinoma
This team will sample the oral cavity, esophagus, and stomach to
study the relationship of the microbiome from these body sites
and esophageal cancer.
Jacques Ravel, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of
Vagina: Bacterial Vaginosis
This study will assess the vaginal microbiome and whether it contributes
to the risk of bacterial vaginosis, a condition where harmful bacteria
outgrow healthy bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis is a risk factor
for pre-term delivery and sexually transmitted diseases.
Julia Segre, Ph.D., National Human Genome Research Institute,
Skin and nose: Atopic Dermatitis, Immunodeficiency Syndromes
The goal of this study is to examine the microbiomes of the skin
and nose in three groups of patients with an inflammatory skin
disease called atopic dermatitis. Researchers will look for associations
between microbiomes, genetic factors associated with atopic dermatitis,
and whether patients suffer from immunodeficiency syndromes.
Gregory A. Storch, M.D., Washington University School
of Medicine, Saint Louis
Nose, digestive tract and blood: Febrile Illness
This team of investigators will examine if there is a relationship
between the immune system and viral microbiome of groups of children
who are healthy and those who are sick with illnesses that cause
a sudden high fever.
Phillip I. Tarr, M.D., Washington University School of
Medicine, Saint Louis
Digestive tract: Necrotizing Enterocolitis
This group of researchers will examine the potential connection
between the intestinal microbiome and the development of necrotizing
enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal disorder that can damage the
intestine, in premature infants.
James Versalovic, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine,
Digestive tract: Pediatric Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This project will examine the composition of the intestinal microbiome
and any possible connections with irritable bowel syndrome in children.
Gary D. Wu, M.D., University of Pennsylvania School of
Digestive tract, Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s Disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, in children
is typically treated with a liquid nutrient diet. It is not known
how this treatment works. This team will investigate whether it
works by altering the composition of the intestinal microbiome.
Partial funding for this project will be provided by NIH’s Office
of Dietary Supplements.
Vincent B. Young, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan,
Digestive tract: Ulcerative Colitis
Some patients who suffer from ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory
bowel disease that causes inflammation and sores in the lining
of the rectum and colon, are treated with surgical removal of the
colon, followed by construction of a pouch to assist the patient
with bowel movements. For unknown reasons, some, patients develop
inflammation of the pouch, necessitating further surgery. This
research will determine whether the composition of the pouch microbiome
influences the onset and progression of pouch inflammation.
Each pilot demonstration project will be reviewed after one year
to evaluate its progress toward milestones, as well as its ability
to demonstrate a definable relationship between a body site microbiome
In the first phases of the Human Microbiome Project, jumpstart
funding was awarded to create a framework and data resources. Funding
has also previously been awarded for the development of innovative
technologies and computational tools, coordination of data analysis,
and an examination of some of the ethical, legal and social implications
of human microbiome research.
More information about the Human Microbiome Project is available
at www.nihroadmap.nih.gov/hmp/ and www.hmpdacc.org.
An illustration showing the body sites that will be sampled as
part of the Human Microbiome Project is available at: http://www.genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=20163.
A high resolution image of the bacteria, Entercoccus faecalis,
a microbe that lives in the human gut, is available in color at www.genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=20023,
or in black and white at www.genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=20024.
The Human Microbiome Project is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical
Research funded through the NIH Common Fund and is managed by the
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National
Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National
Cancer Institute, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial
Research, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases and National Human Genome Research Institute, and the
Office of Strategic Coordination, all part of NIH. The Roadmap
is a series of initiatives designed to pursue major opportunities
and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH institute could
tackle alone, but which the agency as a whole can address to make
the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research.
Additional information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at www.nihroadmap.nih.gov.
he National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
Some activities described in this release are being funded through
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information
about NIH’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/.
To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA,
To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.
NOTE: On June 23, 2009, NHGRI removed Karen Silver
as a contact on this news release.