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    Scientists propose unified microbiome initiative to harness earth’s microbes for health, energy, agriculture and environment

    Photo Credit: Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

    To understand and harness the capabilities of Earth’s microbial ecosystems, 48 scientists from Department of Energy national laboratories, universities, and research institutions have proposed a national effort called the Unified Microbiome Initiative (UMI). The scientists call for the initiative in a policy forum entitled “A unified initiative to harness Earth’s microbiomes” published Oct. 30, 2015, in the journal Science. The UMI highlights the need for new imaging and omics technologies; the development of improved computational methods for analyzing and predicting the vast number of unknown genes and their functions comprising microbiomes; a transition from gene-specific to whole-genome-based analysis through improved genome reference libraries and sequencing methods; development of high-powered imaging methods for visually interrogating communities of microbes down to the individual level; new adaptive modeling systems and data reporting tools; improved genetic engineering techniques for perturbing microbial communities; and novel methods to mimic natural environments for supporting microbiome growth in the laboratory, among others.
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