Researchers Eager to Unlock the Power of Earth’s Smallest Ecosystems


A consortium of 48 scientists from 50 institutions in the United States calls for an ambitious research effort to understand and harness microbiomes — the communities of microorganisms that inhabit ecosystems as varied as the human gut and the ocean — to improve agriculture, bioenergy, human health and the environment.

Their proposal, published in the Oct. 30 issue of the journal Science, calls for a major research project to develop new research tools and collaborations that will unlock the secrets of Earth’s microbial communities.

“Microbiomes sustain life on our planet and they are laboratories of novelty, green chemistry, and life-changing pharmaceuticals,” said Jeff F. Miller, director of the California NanoSystems Institute and the corresponding author of the Science paper.

“Understanding how they work might hold the key to advances as diverse as fighting antibiotic resistance and autoimmune diseases, reclaiming ravaged farmland, reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, and converting sunlight into useful chemicals.”

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