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NSF, USDA Award Microbiome Research Grants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) ­– The National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture have awarded $2.1 million in grants to support a series of early-stage microbiome research projects.

The grants, which are each worth roughly $300,000, are being provided through the NSF's Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program in partnership with the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"These studies will lead to a better understanding of how microbial communities interact with one another and with their plant and animal hosts," James Olds, assistant director for biological sciences at the NSF, said in a statement. "The results have the potential to improve human health through, for example, new insights into antibiotic resistance."

Among the grant recipients are Harvard University's Emily Balskus, who is developing small molecule inhibitors of microbial metabolic activities as a resource for manipulating and studying microbial functions in vivo; Cornell University's Ilana Brito, who is developing single-cell methods to detect horizontally transferred DNA in bacteria and the identities of their hosts; and Joseph Ecker of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies to develop and apply a sequencing-based method for discovering host-microbe protein/protein interactions.

Other EAGER grant winners include Northeastern University's Slava Epstein, who is building a prototype version of an autonomous platform for growing and studying microorganisms in situ; Ryan Hansen of Kansas State University, who is creating a microwell array platform for high-throughput screening and discovery of microbial interactions; Matt Traxler of the University of California, Berkeley, who is developing a mass spectrometry imaging system for microbiome chemical imaging; and Jessica Welch of the Marine Biological Laboratory, who is developing new sample preparation protocols and fluorescence in situ hybridization probes for use in animal microbiome research.