The Promise of the Microbiome: Function and Dysfunction in Humans and Beyond

Event Date: July 15, 2014 12 noon Eastern, 9 a.m. Pacific, 5 p.m. UK, 6 p.m. Central Europe (CEST)

Brought to you by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office

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  Microbiomes—the distinct microbial populations that colonize an array of bodily and environmental niches—are rapidly gaining prominence in numerous fields of research. Increasing understanding of the composition and characteristics of these microbial communities is providing substantial insight into the function, and dysfunction, of a broad range of processes in the host organisms. Recent discoveries indicate a role of the microbiome in specific physical conditions and disease states; these discoveries suggest considerable potential for the development of microbiome-based diagnostic and therapeutic tools. While the microbiota of the human gut has drawn much attention to date, microbiome research is by no means limited to the study of the intestinal populations, or even to the study of humans. Efforts in environmental and agricultural research, for example, reflect a growing interest in the relevance of nonhuman microbiomes.

During the webinar, the speakers will:
  • Provide a brief introduction to microbiomes and how they may fundamentally impact our study of the natural world
  • Share their research data on human and nonhuman microbiota, including microbe-associated environmental impacts on human health
  • Discuss the role of microbiomes in obesity and malnutrition
  • Answer your questions live during the webinar!

David A. Relman, M.D.
Stanford University
Palo Alto, CA

Dr. Relman received a Bachelor’s in biology from MIT, an M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School (1982), completed his clinical training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, served as a postdoctoral fellow in microbiology at Stanford University, and joined the faculty at Stanford in 1994. He is currently the Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in the Departments of Medicine, and of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, and chief of infectious diseases at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, California. He is also co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Dr. Relman’s research focus for the past 15 years has been the human indigenous microbiota and, in particular, the nature and mechanisms of variation in patterns of microbial diversity and function. His work encompasses phylogenetic, metagenomics, and metabolomics compositional analyses of microbial communities and the host; ecological theory; and multi-table approaches for data integration. During the past few decades, he has also spearheaded the development of new strategies for identifying previously unrecognized microbial agents of disease. Dr. Relman has served as an advisor to a number of agencies and departments within the U.S. government on matters pertaining to emerging infectious diseases, human-microbe interactions, biotechnology, and biosecurity. He received an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award in 2006 and an NIH Transformative Research Award in 2013. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2003, a fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science in 2010, and a member of the Institute of Medicine in 2011.
Jack A. Gilbert, Ph.D.
Argonne National Laboratory
Lemont, IL

Dr. Gilbert earned his Ph.D. from Nottingham University, United Kingdom in 2002, and received his postdoctoral training in Canada at Queens University. He returned to the United Kingdom in 2005 for a senior scientist position at Plymouth Marine Laboratory before moving to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Dr. Gilbert is an environmental microbiologist at Argonne National Laboratory, associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at University of Chicago, and senior fellow of the Institute of Genomic and Systems Biology. Dr. Gilbert is currently applying next generation sequencing technologies to microbial metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology. He has focused on analyzing microbial function and diversity, community assembly processes, and dynamic interactions between taxa, with an aim of predicting the metabolic output from a community. He is currently working on generating observational and mechanistic models of microbial communities in natural, built, and human ecosystems. He is on the board of the Genomic Standards Consortium, is a section editor for PLoS ONE, and is the senior editor for the ISME Journal as well as Environmental Microbiology. Dr. Gilbert is the principal investigator for the Earth Microbiome Project, Home Microbiome Project, Gulf Microbial Modeling Project, Hospital Microbiome Project, and the Chicago River Microbiome Project.
Rob Knight, Ph.D.
HHMI / University of Colorado
Boulder, CO

Dr. Knight is a professor at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in the Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Computer Science. He undertook his undergraduate work at the University of Otago in his native New Zealand, followed by a Ph.D. at Princeton University. His laboratory primarily works on microbial community ecology including the human microbiome. Dr. Knight is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist, a AAAS Fellow, a Kavli Fellow, a member of the American Gastroenterology Association Science Advisory Board, co-founder of Biota, Inc., and co-founder of the Earth Microbiome Project and the American Gut Project.

Moderator: Sean Sanders, Ph.D., Editor, Custom Publishing, Science/AAAS
Dr. Sanders did his undergraduate training at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, UK, supported by the Wellcome Trust. Following postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University, Dr. Sanders joined TranXenoGen, a startup biotechnology company in Massachusetts working on avian transgenics. Pursuing his parallel passion for writing and editing, Dr. Sanders joined BioTechniques as an editor, before joining Science/AAAS in 2006. Currently Dr. Sanders is the Editor for Custom Publishing for the journal Science and Program Director for Outreach.


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