Microbiome Hub & morning panel

Sailendharan Sudakaran introduces UW-Madison’s Microbiome Hub! UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute of Discovery is catalyzing collaboration and support for microbiome research through the Microbiome Hub, which seeks to 1) support interdisciplinary research, 2) develop platform technologies, and 3) expand the microbiome workforce. The Microbiome Hub embodies the “Wisconsin Idea” that research at the university should be to the benefit the entire state. Learn more at microbiome.wisc.edu!

Challenges of regulating microbiome therapies: organisms or communities may respond differently over time depending on other factors, e.g. someone “eating sushi” the day after treatment, making it very difficult to understand potential side effects or toxicity levels when the treatment is not a drug, but living organisms.

How should microbiome researchers deal with hype regarding their research? Panelists emphasis being careful with the terms we use, such as using “microbial communities” instead of “microbiome”. Hearing the history of microbial manipulation this morning has been a good reminder of the importance of studying the long-term outcomes of microbial manipulation.

Are reductionist approaches obsolete? “Absolutely not” – reductionist and systems approaches compliment each other.

What would be most helpful to panelists for future research? Gilbert: to be able to remove single organisms from an ecosystem consistently, and see what happens. Handelsman echoes, and also mentions being able to take out single genes from a system, a “holy grail of microbiology”. Ossorio: more money for clinical trials. If the demand exists for microbial treatments but the funding for clinical trials is not there, they will find ways to market them without the recommended regulation. Sudakaran: cautious interpretation of results – genetic diversity does not necessarily mean functional diversity! Joye and Raskin: We are drowning in data – need the tools to make sense of it. Gilbert: ..and we need the students who have the skills to analyze it!

-Jacob Grace