Scientists from around the globe, meeting today in Heidelberg, Germany, announced the formation of the International Human Microbiome Consortium (IHMC), an effort that will enable researchers to characterize the relationship of the human microbiome in the maintenance of health and in disease.
The human metagenome is the collective genomes of all microorganisms living in or on the human body. The IHMC will generate a shared data resource from international projects that will be made freely available to the global scientific community. Research organizations from all nations supporting similar research efforts are invited to become participants.
In related news, leaders from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, signed a letter of intent in September with the European Commission (EC) officially agreeing to combine the data from the NIH Human Microbiome Project and the EC Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) project. Both projects, which are already under way, will contribute an initial set of microbial genomes to the IHMC.
Current participants in the IHMC include:Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
The IHMC is open for membership from any researchers who agree to the consortium’s principles, which include:
Each participating research group plans to focus on describing different body sites and diseases, while the US and EC will also contribute to a reference set of completely sequenced microbial genomes.
Data generated by IHMC projects will be made available through the NIH Human Microbiome Project Data Analysis and Coordination Center, led by Owen White, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore and an equivalent center at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), led by Peer Bork, Ph.D. The data will also be distributed to other public databases, including those supported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/mapview), part of the National Library of Medicine.
The IHMC chairmanship will rotate annually and the co-chairs for 2009 are Christian Desaintes, Ph.D., from the European Commission and S. Dusko Ehrlich, Ph.D., coordinator of the MetaHIT project.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) –“The Nation's Medical Research Agency” – includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.
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