Early Notice: New Microbial-Host Interactions Grants

Microorganisms are everywhere–in and on our body, and in our environment. We know that these microbial communities affect our health and the health of plants and animals that we depend on. Yet, we know very little about the physiology and ecology of these communities and their interactions with their hosts.

Today, the NIGMS Council approved a new grant program that will focus on studying the basic principles that govern microbial community structure and function within a host. Research under this program will advance our understanding of the basic biology of microbial communities. It also has the potential to provide clues for developing new strategies to promote human health and treat or prevent diseases.

Once the funding opportunity has been published in the NIH Guide in early August, we will post it on the Feedback Loop site. In the meantime, I encourage you to send me comments and start thinking about applying.

9 comments on “Early Notice: New Microbial-Host Interactions Grants

  1. Can this grant support studies that look at bacteriophage:host interaction and how phages could be used as a non-antibiotics therapeutic? If so, when do you expect we’ll be able to apply?

    Thanks!

  2. Microbial communities have many bacteriophages that are basically invisible to conventional procedures of isolation and also to procedures of microscopy that do not involve sectioning. Large concentrations of phage have been seen by electron microscopy of thin sections of dental plaque (a biofilm), for example, without any of them propagated or observed in any other way. Reasons exist to believe that many phages are missed by current metagenomic analysis. These “missing”, possibly biofilm-inhabiting, phage are potentially the most useful for the phage therapy mentioned in the first comment. Similar “missing” eukaryotic viruses should exist based on other prokaryotic/eukayotic virus similarities. So, finding the “missing” viruses should, in my opinion, be a top priority. Yet, this topic seems to have no priority. Does a chance exist that this condition will change?

  3. Is this new grant program an extension of the P30 mechanism to support faculty recruitment, or is it posted along with this topic merely by coincidence?

  4. Is this new grant program an extension of the P30 mechanism to support faculty recruitment, or is it posted along with this topic merely by coincidence?

    This is just a coincidence. The two topics are completely independent.

  5. Can this grant support studies that look at bacteriophage:host interaction and how phages could be used as a non-antibiotics therapeutic? If so, when do you expect we’ll be able to apply?

    The new program will support genetic, physiological, and ecological studies designed to reveal the basic principles and mechanisms that govern the symbiotic systems dynamics of microbial communities. The bacteriophage:host interaction and the use of phages as possible therapeutic agents, while important areas, are not a focus of this initiative.

    In response to your question about application timing, we plan to have the RFA published in the NIH Guide by the middle of August, with an expected application receipt date in January 2010.

  6. Dear Dr. Singh,

    I am interested in applying to the “New Microbial-Host Interactions Grants.”

    I think that the RFA should support studies on: The structure and function of microbial ligands and their host cell receptors that participate and regulate the microbe-host interplay. Novel in vivo models to study the molecular physiology of microbial-host interplay. Host and microbe gene network analysis of the initial events of microbial host-interactions. Systems biology of microbial-host interactions. Molecular signatures caused by microbes and their products in host cells. Understanding of the complex mechanisms of cell-microbe communications.

    Research in these critical areas will significantly advance our understanding of the basic biology of the first steps of microbial-host interplay. It also will provide useful information on the molecular basis of microbial-host interplay for the development of novel means to promote health, treat and prevent diseases.

  7. I’m wondering about the relationship between this program and many existing programs funded by NIAID and — for microbial community structure — NSF?

    • Shiva Singh is out of the office until Monday, but I can answer your question. There is widespread interest at NIH and elsewhere in the role of microbial communities, and different agencies have different perspectives determined by their missions. While the NIAID primarily focuses on health implications and NSF upon environmental phenomena, the NIGMS initiative focuses on basic principles of host-microbe associations–most often using model host/microbe systems that can be deeply interrogated by state-of-the-art genetic, physiological, biochemical and imaging technologies. The goal of our initative is not to solve a problem of a particular host/organism, but to elucidate underlying principles that could be applicable to a wide range of such associations, including the human/microbiome.

      Jim Anderson, NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology

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