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Exploring the Microbiome

What is the Canadian Microbiome Initiative, what has it accomplished and what potential does it hold for the future?

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Charu Kaushic

Dr. Charu Kaushic

Scientific Director, Institute of Infection & Immunity, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Microbiome research has increased dramatically in recent years, unlocking a wealth of data that has yielded tremendous insight into the nature of the bacterial communities and their role in human health and disease. As Canada’s major federal agency responsible for funding health research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) provided extensive support for cutting-edge microbiome research over the past 15 years. Starting in 2007, Dr. Bhagirath Singh, inaugural Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, championed the development of the Canadian Microbiome Initiative (CMI), a priority-driven investment to support novel, high-risk research questions about the microbiome and provide opportunities for researchers to begin forming teams. As the field advanced, consultations with the research community indicated the need for investment in multi-center collaborations and national-level resource-sharing that would coordinate these efforts. With the second phase of CMI, funded in 2018, CIHR supported stronger interdisciplinary research teams across Canada and a pan-Canadian Research Core to coordinate and facilitate sharing of expertise, knowledge and resources among the teams.

To date, CIHR has invested more than $154 million in microbiome research, and with these early and priority investments, CMI placed Canada among the world’s leaders in this rapidly emerging field. Researchers funded through CMI are now leading clinical trials to explore the preventative or therapeutic benefit of microbiome intervention strategies in human health and disease, creating spin-off biotechnology companies to commercialize their microbiome-related discoveries, and providing mentorship and training to the next generation of microbiome researchers who will strengthen the field in the years to come.


This article was created by the Institute of Infection and Immunity, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

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