NIH awards funding for second phase of the Human Microbiome Project

The CSIBD is pleased to announce that Ramnik Xavier, MD, PhD, Director of the CSIBD, and Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, Co-Director of the CSIBD Clinical/Tissue Core, have received funding to lead a major microbiome research initiative.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week that Dr. Ramnik Xavier, Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Curtis Huttenhower, Associate Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, have been selected to lead an initiative that will investigate connections between the microbes living in the human gut (the “microbiome”) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This research program marks the second phase of the Human Microbiome Project, a project launched by the NIH in 2008 to characterize the microbial communities that live in and on the human body, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease. In the current project, Drs. Xavier and Huttenhower will lead a cross-disciplinary team that includes researchers at MGH, the Harvard School of Public Health, Broad Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, UCLA, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Emory University, University of Colorado, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The team will collect and analyze samples from adults and children with IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), conditions that affect 1.5 million Americans and have an overall incidence that has increased >400% in the past 50 years. Although clearly linked to both genetics and environment, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have emerged in recent years as some of the most important conditions linked to the gut microbiota. The funded project will build resources for the larger research community to investigate correlations between the gut microbiome and IBD.

The initiative is funded through a branch of the NIH that supports programs that have exceptionally high impact and address seemingly intractable problems using innovative approaches. As the leaders of this nationwide collaborative project, Drs. Xavier and Huttenhower will oversee the coordination of state-of-the-art technology with enormous amounts of raw data. In addition to making important contributions to understanding IBD, the program promises to deliver computational tools and analytic approaches that will guide microbiome research for years to come.

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