The launch of the National Microbiome Initiative (NCI) was announced on Friday, March 13 at the White House. Several members of the UCLA Microbiome Center attended the event which brought together scientist, industry representatives and funding agencies.
The NMI has three major goals:
- To foster interdisciplinary research on fundamental questions about diverse microbiomes (including soil, water, air and humans).
- To develop platform technologies for probing and changing microbiomes.
- To create a new workforce through citizen science, public engagement and education.
In order to reach these goals, the NCI is pledging a total of $ 400 million (combined funds from federal agencies, non-profits, universitities and companies.
As pointed out by Ed Yong in a recent article in the Atlantic, this initiative and the entire field of microbiome science has paradigm shifting implications: “If microbiome science tells us anything, it’s that everything is secretly ecology. The biology of oceans and bodies and soils is really about the connections and relationships between living things, many of which have gone unnoticed for too long. It will take a new human relationship to understand them.”
It is somewhat ironic that this holistic view of the world and life, shared by ancient religions and many indigenous people for thousands of years, is finally being embraced by modern science and hopefully will make its way into many aspects of our lives.