The mission of the University of Michigan Host/Microbiome Initiative (HMI) was to foster research on the role of microbes in human health and disease. This initiative built upon long-standing strengths in microbiology, microbial pathogenesis, immunology and clinical medicine. The HMI leveraged developments in technology and national initiatives such as the NIH Human Microbiome Project to accelerate our understanding of how communities of microbes interact with their host.
The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) Strategic Research Initiative was created in 2012 by a long-term commitment of over $100 million by the Dean of the Medical School, James Woolliscroft. This initiative leveraged existing areas of research strength to advance the research mission of UMHS by fostering innovative, ground-breaking science. In 2012, a program known as Fast Forward was initiated as part of the Strategic Research Initiative. After a process that involved vetting proposals in 10 areas of focused research, the Host/Microbiome Initiative (HMI) was selected to receive approximately $16M over the next 5 years. This Initiative was led by Harry Mobley, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Vincent Young, M.D., Ph.D., from the Department of Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases Division and Thomas Schmidt, Ph.D., from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The Host/Microbiome Initiative built upon the existing strengths of the University in the areas of microbial pathogenesis and microbiome research. Through expansion of existing infrastructure and the development of novel enabling technologies; including germ-free animal technology, advanced microbial cultivation, microbial-focused high-throughput molecular analysis and microbial bioinformatics/genomics, the HMI has increased our understanding of the role played by microbes in human health and disease.
The Host/Microbiome Initiative spans the basic and clinical departments of the Medical School with over 200 faculty members from 12 different departments participating in activities related to microbial research in human health. Enabling technologies are localized in MSRB I that includes a facility for microbe-focused molecular analysis (including high-throughput sequence analysis or microbial community structure and function), bioinformatics capabilities for analysis of molecular microbial data and a facility for advanced microbial cultivation (including anaerobic and micro-oxic cultivation technology). The Host/Microbiome Initiative has also expanded the existing germ-free facility to permit study of animals with defined microbial communities. The HMI fosters research in several focused research areas, each of which has coordinated groups of investigators working together in collaborative teams.
The initial research areas include mucosal/microbiome inflammatory interactions, host-pathogen interactions and gene-nutrient-microbe interactions. Research in each of these research areas has been facilitated by the enabling technologies that the initiative developed.