Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Awarded $3M to Establish Australia’s First Human Microbiome Biobank

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Awarded $3 Million Grant to Establish Australia’s First Human Microbiome Biobank
QUT researchers in The Australian Human Microbiome Biobank. From left: Dr Simon McIlroy, Dr Elise Pelzer, Professor Gene Tyson and Dr James Volmer (Photo credit: Queensland University of Technology)
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Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has recently been honored with a substantial grant of $3 million AUD. The grant will be dedicated to the establishment of a groundbreaking initiative known as The Australian Human Microbiome Biobank.

  • The vast majority of microorganisms found in the human microbiome have yet to be cultured in the laboratory.
  • The biobank aims to provide researchers and commercial entities with access to numerous new microorganisms sourced from the human microbiome.
  • These microorganisms hold the capacity to augment possibilities for biotherapeutics in a market projected to attain a value of $2.6 billion within the next seven years.

The Medical Research Future Fund National Critical Research Infrastructure grant will support a three-year initiative aimed at constructing an innovative cultivation platform. This platform’s primary purpose is to facilitate the isolation and genomic characterisation of numerous microbial strains from the human body. Through this project, tens of thousands of such strains will be isolated and characterized.

Lead investigator Professor Gene Tyson, director of the Centre for Microbiome Research and co-founder of the human gut microbiome analysis company Microba, said “the world-leading biobank would help overcome major obstacles in human microbiome research.”

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“The human body is home to diverse communities of bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists and viruses, which collectively encode 150 times more genes than the human genome,” Professor Tyson said.

“These microorganisms, known as the human microbiome, provide defence against pathogens, aid in metabolism, help regulate the immune system and produce thousands of metabolites that influence pathways throughout the body.

“While most of these microorganisms live in the gut, they also inhabit many different parts of the body including the skin, mouth and other mucosal surfaces, with each community having a unique composition, function and contribution to our health.

“Increasing evidence has demonstrated that imbalances in the microbiome are associated with a range of health conditions, including inflammatory disorders, metabolic diseases, mental health disorders, neurological conditions and infections.

“However, more than 70 percent of microorganisms living in and on the human body have yet to be cultured in the laboratory.

“The development of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools from the microbiome is possible only if microorganisms of interest could be isolated and studied in the laboratory,” Professor Tyson added.

“Our team has developed a new platform that will allow us to bring thousands of new species into culture for the first time so that we can study their functional roles.

“By building a comprehensive biobank of human-associated microorganisms and making them available to researchers and commercial entities, this work will help expedite the discovery and translation of new health solutions worldwide.”

Professor Tyson further said that “ultimately an online database would be made that contained the identity, genome sequence and growth conditions for every microorganism in the biobank.

“This will serve as an invaluable resource for the development of novel consumer health products, such as prebiotics and probiotics, as well as live biotherapeutics, a new class of microbiome-derived drugs with a market estimated to reach $2.6 billion by 2030.”

The QUT research group is composed of Professor Gene Tyson, Dr. Simon McIlroy, Dr. Elise Pelzer, and Dr. James Volmer. The team also comprises eminent researchers and medical professionals from various fields across Australia, such as Professor Trent Munro, Dr. Páraic Ó Cuív, and Dr. Nicola Angel from Microba, Dr. Allison McInnes from the Minderoo Foundation, Dr. Emily Hoedt from The University of Newcastle, Professor Gerald Holtman from The University of Queensland, Professor Fiona Wood from Royal Perth Hospital, Professor Ben Howden from the University of Melbourne, and Associate Professor Asha Bowen from Perth Children’s Hospital.