May 13, 2016

Mayo Clinic Joins the National Microbiome Initiative

By Jeff Briggs


The microbiome — which includes a community of trillions of bacteria living within our gut — has been called one of the next big frontiers in medicine. In recent years, research has shown that the bacteria in our gut plays a critical role in our overall health. The balance of good and bad bacteria can keep us healthy — or can contribute to disease.

Now, the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine has joined the National Microbiome Initiative sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). More than 100 institutions committed to advance microbiome research in areas such as health care, food safety and security, environmental protection, and bioenergy production.

In support of the National Microbiome Initiative Mayo Clinic is committed to establishing a Microbiome Clinic, offering clinical services, diagnostics and patient education.

Purna Kashyap-500x333

Dr. Purna Kashyap

“The new clinic will focus on improving the care of the individual patient through knowledge of the human microbiome,” says Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S., consultant in gastroenterology, associate director of the Mayo Clinic Microbiome Program.

According to Dr. Kashyap new diagnostics based on next-generation sequencing will allow the Microbiome Clinic to individualize treatment of undiagnosed infections and conditions, as well as to perform hospital surveillance. These will include bacterial whole genome sequencing to track and identify source of outbreaks and determine antibiotic susceptibility, clinical metagenomic profiling to identify unculturable  bacteria causing infections and microbial community profiling as biomarkers of disease outcomes and response to treatment.

In addition to the well-established fecal microbiota transplant program, Mayo will offer new therapies emerging from clinical trials. Patient education will focus on helping patients navigate the complex options that promote health and wellness, including diet and nutritional supplements and probiotic foods.

Dr. Heidi Nelson

Dr. Heidi Nelson

"The Center for Individualized Medicine’s Microbiome Program will continue to support a discovery, translational and clinical research portfolio that ensures continued success of the Microbiome Clinic." says Heidi Nelson, M.D., consultant in colon and rectal surgery, program director of the Microbiome Program, and the Fred C. Andersen Professor.

Dr. Kashyap will be joining scientists and engineers from around the country on Friday, May 13, in Washington, D.C., as the OSTP hosts “The Future of the Microbiomes.” The event gathers experts to try to answer fundamental questions about the microbiome and to learn how to leverage the power of the microbiome to treat disease. It will be available on live webcast from 1–4 p.m. EDT.

They’ll be trying to answer questions such as, “What is a healthy microbiome?” and “How can we manage microbiomes to keep them resilient?”

These questions are applicable to microbiomes in habitats as diverse as oceans, soil, and the human body. The basic principles common to all microbiomes are more likely to emerge from interdisciplinary teams that draw on a variety of expertise rather than a single scientist with knowledge of only one field.  How microorganisms assemble to form a newborn baby’s microbiome may be fundamentally similar to how microorganisms assemble on a budding cherry blossom, for example, and how an ocean microbiome responds to a disturbance such as an oil spill may shed light on how the human gut microbiome responds to Thanksgiving dinner.  Moreover, the same tools may help researchers understand processes in a wide variety of systems.

To make progress in understanding microbiomes, scientists need interdisciplinary research, new methods, technologies, and standards to foster groundbreaking discoveries about microbiomes.  Meeting these needs will require funding for basic and applied research that spans diverse areas, as well as the implementation of systematic mechanisms to provide opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas, and for collaborations for solving experimental challenges and answering complex questions.

Read more facts about the OSTP National Microbiome Initiative.

Live Webcast
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy event “The Future of the Microbiomes,” will be available on live webcast on Friday, May 13, from 1–4 p.m. EDT.  Go to to view the webcast.

You can also follow the conversation Twitter.  Search for the hashtag #Microbiome.


Tags: center for individualized medicine, Dr. Heidi Nelson, Dr. Purna Kashyap, microbiome, Microbiome Clinic, Microbiome Program, National Microbiome Initiative, next generation sequencing, NGS, OSTP, Uncategorized, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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