The Center for Human Microbiome Studies

Stanford Launches New Microbiome Center

The human gut microbiota
within the colon

Announcing:  The Center for Human Microbiome Studies

Within the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection

The Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection is proud to announce a new center focused on furthering our understanding of the microbes that inhabit the human body, known as the human microbiome.

The Center for Human Microbiome Studies will focus on enabling and connecting an interdisciplinary network of scientists and leveraging the most advanced technologies to rapidly realize the biomedical potential of the microbes that live within and upon us.  The microbiome has a fundamental and continuous impact on human biology, with the capacity to promote health or to cause disease.  A primary aim of the center is to develop precision therapies and interventions that target the human microbiome to maintain and restore human health.

The goals of the Center include:

  1. Fund scientific studies focused on microbiome connections to human health and diseas
  2. Provide resources to incorporate microbiome characterization into planned or existing studies
  3. Unite a multi-disciplinary and collaborative network of researchers around microbiome-focused studies
  4. Translate findings to provide therapies, inform medical practice, and inform dietary and lifestyle habits

Hastening the Pace of Discovery

The success of microbiome transplants to cure recurrent C. difficile colitis provides a powerful example of how microbial therapies can restore health in an otherwise highly intractable disease.  This success marks the beginning of a new era in which the microbiome takes a prominent role in biomedicine.  Despite these advances, realizing the promise of the microbiome has been hindered by its tremendous complexity, combined with its individualized nature; each of us harbors a somewhat unique microbiome.  Therefore, a concerted effort is needed to enable discovery that is translatable to improved human health.  The Center will work to hasten the development of new therapies and approaches to abate the growing burden of chronic Western diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer.

The Microbiome-Immune Connection

The gut microbiome is intricately intertwined with the immune system. The microbiome is also highly responsive to environmental cues including diet, antibiotic use, and exposure to environmental microbes. It is both the profound connection between the microbiome and the immune system and the malleability of the microbiome that makes it a prime target for regulating inflammation, the core characteristic of the immune system that drives many Western diseases.  However, learning how to reproducibly manipulate the microbiome despite differences between individuals remains a major challenge.  Our Center works toward treatments tailored to an individual’s unique microbiome and immune status.

The Center will be co-directed by Justin Sonnenburg, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and David Relman, Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and of Medicine.

Justin Sonnenburg, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology