The UC Davis Office of Research recently announced the launch of the Microbiome Special Research Program (SRP), designed to leverage and build upon the broad and deep expertise in microbiome science across the university.

“UC Davis has incredible breadth and depth in microbiome research with over 100 laboratories actively pursuing projects with links to agriculture, environment, energy and human and animal health,” said Cameron Carter, interim vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “The decision to invest in a platform to empower these teams was obvious given our strength in these areas and our potential to charter new frontiers that address some of our world’s most pressing issues.”
 
Jonathan Eisen, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine, has been appointed faculty director for the program. Eisen is internationally recognized as a pioneer and leader in both research and communication about microbiomes (communities of microbes).
 
The study of microbiomes in environments and hosts has emerged as one of the most transformative areas of life science research over the last decade – driven by advances in technology (such as DNA sequencing and informatics) and also by key discoveries regarding important functions carried out by microbiomes.
 
The Microbiome SRP was developed with guidance from more than 70 faculty who identified opportunities and challenges during a series of focused workshops. The program represents a concerted effort to increase the competitiveness of microbiome research teams, enhance communication and training on microbiome-related topics and raise the profile and impact of microbiome research at UC Davis. A steering committee made up of UC Davis faculty involved in microbiome research is expected to be in place by the end of the summer.
 
“UC Davis already has incredible strengths in diverse areas of microbiome science, spanning all aspects of life and health sciences as well as engineering, law, business and the humanities,” said Eisen. “Our goal here is to catalyze accelerated progress and expansion into new areas by providing seed funding, improving communications about microbiome topics internally and externally, and serving as an organizing point for large-scale initiatives.”
 
Initial Program Priorities
 
The Microbiome SRP will provide a platform for collaboration for faculty, researchers and students across the campus. It will also serve as an interface for collaborating with other institutions in situations where multi-investigator participations would benefit from having a single interface point. Three key areas have been defined as the program’s initial priorities:
 
Seed Funding: The program will coordinate a formalized, competitive seed funding mechanism to provide research teams with funding to develop preliminary findings to secure large impact grants.
 
Training, Seminars and Workshops: The program will organize campus workshops, symposia and seminars on microbiomes with a focus on filling existing gaps in researcher training opportunities and catalyzing internal and external collaborations.
 
New Communication Platform: The program will develop a web communication platform to curate and share microbiome related information such as funding opportunities, events, training, workshops and campus resources (e.g., relevant core facilities and courses).