Celebrating World Microbiome Day

Today is World Microbiome Day, and as a TechBio company focused on unlocking the microbiome1, it is an important awareness day for Eagle Genomics. To celebrate, scientific experts share their insights and passion for the microbiome, highlighting its importance for the health of humans, animals and the environment, as well as its potential to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.  

“We don’t need to go into space to discover the next frontier,” says Anthony Finbow, CEO. “It’s critical that we look within ourselves, animals, the soil and the environment to really understand how we are going to solve for the Grand Challenges – whether it’s trying to maintain and predict health and wellness across the life course, through to mitigating the effects of climate change.”  

“The importance of the symbiotic relationships between microbes and larger organisms has long been overlooked. Now, we’re seeing major enterprises across the world acknowledge the contribution of the microbiome and the concept of ‘holobionts2.” A holobiont can be described as a eukaryotic host (such as humans), along with all its external and internal 'associates' – a multispecies consortium that can include bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses3. Anthony adds: “At Eagle Genomics, we are applying this understanding to accelerate the bioeconomy through the digital reinvention of science – harnessing the microbiome through network science and hypergraph technology to deliver nature-driven solutions such as improving food security, health and nutrition, and promoting biodiversity.” 

Dr Christian Roghi, Director of Microbiome Solutions, shares his perspective: “The microbiome is the foundation of health and resilience. It is a vast and complex ecosystem with an immense potential for a healthier future of the planet and all its inhabitants.” For humans, microbiomes influence our immune system, metabolic health, our mood, and much more, while environmental microbiomes have an impact on ecosystem diversity, agricultural success, and even climate change. Dr Yvonne Pinto, Director of Bioeconomy – AgBio, reminds us that microbiomes are ubiquitous in nature, and they are made up of communities of multiple microorganisms: “Microbiomes are particularly important in supporting nutritious and healthy food systems, from the role they play in maintaining and enhancing soil health, to improving crop productivity, resilience and nutrition. Harnessing them is an opportunity to reduce the dependency on chemicals and antibiotics and enhance human and environmental health amongst other benefits.” 

The microbiome’s potential is enormous. However, realizing this potential is not a straightforward journey. “Microbes have been around for more than 3.5 billion years, which makes them the oldest form of life on Earth. They outnumber the stars in the universe, and yet, we know very little about them,” comments Dr Artem Khlebnikov, Director of Bioeconomy – Food & Nutrition. He adds: “Looking at the past 20 years of microbiome research, the field has evolved from dealing with small empirical datasets to generating vast amounts of data waiting to be explored.” 

So, how can we best harness microbiomes to create positive impact? Yvonne says that “in being able to exploit microbiomes, we have to drive an understanding of them and the complexity in which they operate, which requires a new way of thinking.” Microbiome experts believe that network science could provide answers and make a significant difference.  

Network science refers to the study of patterns of connections in complex networks. Microbiome analysis involves networks of microbes connected to other data from the host and the environment. For example, metabolites that microbes produce, may interact with the human immune system, potentially stimulating a stronger response. The holistic nature of network science offers a way to decipher the links between microbiomes and the host.  

Dr Alex Mitchell, Director of Bioinformatics, reminds us of what was on the forefront of Louis Pasteur’s mind over 150 ago: “It is the microbes who will have the last word.” He reflects: “it is only now, as we develop and utilize modern analytical techniques to help unravel and understand the microbiome, that we are starting to realize how true that statement really is.” 

There are infinite approaches to leveraging microbiomes for human, animal and planetary health. And as Christian says, “today is a milestone in celebrating the importance of this invisible world – let’s commit ourselves to taking care of it.” 

Happy World Microbiome Day 2023 from the Eagle Genomics team!



Notes and references 

[1] The microbiome refers to an entire ecosystem of microorganisms (bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes, and viruses), their genomes, and the surrounding environmental conditions (proteins, metabolites, environmental data, etc.). 

[2] The Economist, The idea of “holobionts” represents a paradigm shift in biology, 14th June 2023, available at: https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2023/06/14/the-idea-of-holobionts-represents-a-paradigm-shift-in-biology

[3] Jaspers C. et al., Resolving structure and function of metaorganisms through a holistic framework combining reductionist and integrative approaches, Zoology, Vol. 133, 2019, Pages 81-87, ISSN 0944-2006, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2019.02.007