Over the past year our firm has been reporting on major intellectual property developments and the R&D and commercialization efforts in the microbiome. The importance of this scientific area for bringing new drug therapies to the marketplace has now been given a big shot in the arm by the US government. On Friday, May 13, the White House launched a public-private coalition “to foster the integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems.” This expansive R&D effort comes with $121 million of funding from the federal government, with another $100+ million of investments from academia and the private sector.

The National Microbiome Initiative (NMI) aims to “support interdisciplinary research, [develop] platform technologies, and expand the microbiome workforce, and will involve several prominent players in microbiomics. In conjunction with the NMI’s unveiling, Novartis; the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); and the Broad Institute have announced a collaboration called the Novartis-Foundry Sequence-to-Molecule Pipeline, which will use data analysis tools to evaluate potential therapeutic compounds made by the gut microbiome. The cancer therapeutics company Evelo Biosciences has contributed $1 million for funding studies on the microbiome and cancer.

The initiative, in the vein of the White House’s 2014 “BRAIN” Initiative, will also bring together federal agencies – including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration – along with key research and philanthropic organizations, such as the University of San Diego, University of Michigan, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – with the goal of understanding the impact of microbes in human health, climate change, food security, and space. “If we just look at the human microbiome, we’re missing out on a lot of biology,” said associate director for science at the OSTP, Jo Handelsman, in an interview for The Atlantic. Dr. Handelsman, a pioneer in metagenomics and studies of the microbiome, is currently on leave from Yale University, where she is the Frederick Phineas Rose Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.

We look forward to reporting further on this initiative and the interesting technologies it is expected to produce.
More information about the NMI is available here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/12/fact-sheet-announcing-national-microbiome-initiative

– Jessica Miles and Anthony D. Sabatelli, PhD, JD

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