Identifying opportunities, challenges and needs for effective exploitation of microbiome related technologies
Posted on 03/10/2018
Microbiomes are an essential feature of living systems. They comprise a community of microorganisms, together with the habitat or host they exist within or upon.
While there are some examples of very stable microbiomes, most are constantly in a state of flux and transition. This then leads to the obvious question of what do you measure in order to assess the stability and efficiency of microbiomes and are such measurements consistent across different microbiomes in different environments?
The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), with support from the Microbiology Society, recently held a workshop to bring together practitioners from across the UK research and industrial bases. The aim was to identify cross sectoral as well as sector specific opportunities and challenges in commercialising microbiome targeted products and to ensure the UK stays competitive in this emerging area. The outputs of this workshop have now been published in a new KTN report with the title “Identifying Cross Sectoral Opportunities, Challenges and Needs for Effective UK Microbiome Related Technology Exploitation.”
The report gave a general overview of the current knowledge of microbiomes, before moving onto specific areas including agri-food (probiotics, prebiotics), health (internal and external), and other less obvious areas such as the oil and gas industries, and the water industry.
The workshop participants spanned a excellent range expertise, both technical and sector specific, with market relevance and experience.
Priorities that were identified for moving to translation of microbiome research and innovation included:
- Continued efforts in basic science for greater understanding of microbiomes
- Better collaboration and funding to foster interdisciplinary work
- Skills matching and upskilling
- “Microbiome friendly” regulations underpinned by research
- Scale up manufacturing facilities infrastructure
Recommendations were made in order to move this largely emerging sector forward, which might include the formation of a special interest group as a focal point for cross-sector and cross-discipline, commercially focussed community-based activities.
It was concluded that microbiome research and innovation remains in a state of flux, with disparity in research and commercial activity, regulatory and standards depending on the application. There is certainly a growing awareness of the importance of cross-sectoral interactions and also of a need to focus both on mechanistic based studies and on having a greater emphasis on microbial function and not just on identification of populations. There was an implicit awareness of the importance of homeostasis and how to maintain it in microbiomes, however this was not explored explicitly.