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UCB, Harvard Collaborate on Human Microbiome Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – UCB today announced a collaboration with researchers at Harvard to study the human microbiome in the intestine.

The project, for which UCB is providing up to $4.5 million in funding over three years, will classify new species found in the human microbiome and study their impact on the immune system. The goal is to identify new drugs for preventing and/or treating immunological diseases.

Christophe Benoist, Dennis Kasper, and Diane Mathis, all professors in the division of immunology in the department of microbiology and immunology at Harvard Medical School, will head the project called "Mining the Human Microbiome."

They plan to mine the human microbiome for new immunomodulatory molecules found in the intestine with potential therapeutic applications and have designed an interdisciplinary project using technological advances in next-generation sequencing, whole-genome and single molecule transcript profiling, and polychromatic flow cytometry.

"We hope this project will fundamentally shift the paradigm of drug development for immunological diseases, exploiting naturally occurring molecules evolutionarily designed to thwart or harness the immune system," the Harvard researchers said in a statement. "If found, these molecules would be of enormous potential for probing immune system function, therapeutic application, and as a preventative therapy."

Belgian biopharmaceutical firm UCB and Harvard signed an Innovative Research Alliance in 2011, and the microbiome project is the third collaboration between the two parties.

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