Future of the human microbiome project (HMP) at NIH?

Just got this question by email

“Dear Professor Eisen, I wonder if you can shed any light on the question whether the Human Microbiome Project will be renewed or if it is being discontinued at NIH. I happened to thumb through (on a Kindle) the 2013 proposed budget for the NIH Common Fund to find to my astonishment that the HMP — which had been lionized in June and July in issues of Nature and Science and PLoS — has been apparently zeroed out. The Budget narrative states bleakly: “The FY 2013 President’s Budget request of $1.207 million for HMP represents a decrease of $22.531 million, or 94.92 percent less than the FY 2012 level. The estimated decrease in funding reflects the planned FY 2012 conclusion of all but one of the awards. This award had a late start, and therefore will continue into FY 2013. There is a possibility of supporting a second phase of the HMP program, pending an analysis of current needs.” If you go on the HMP website, you will see that all the program RFPs have been archived under the statement “There are no funding opportunities at this time.” (See http://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/grants.aspx). I am an avid follower of your Tree of life Blog. Thank you for running it. I imagine other readers might also be interested in what is going on with respect to the HMP budget. “

Interesting question.  Here is what I know which is very limited.

  • The NIH Human Microbiome Project was funded as a “Roadmap” initiative.  
    • “The Human Microbiome Project is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. The Roadmap is a series of initiatives designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH institute could tackle alone, but which the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Additional information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at http://www.nihroadmap.nih.gov.”
    • It was a five year program, starting in 2007 and ending in 2012. 
  • The full details of the 2013 NIH budget request are here
  • In 2013 testimony by NIH at congress the HMP is discussed
    • “One fascinating area of basic research is the Human Microbiome Project, an initiative supported through the NIH Common Fund. This project is giving us wonderful insights into the sweeping range of bacteria that live on and in each of us, and is expanding our knowledge about the role of these microbial communities in health and disease. Recent scientific evidence suggests that changes in the composition and activity of the human microbiome may contribute to obesity, which may provide us with new ways of addressing this serious threat to our nation’s health.”
I have heard discussions about how NIH might try to do another round of funding for the HMP but I do not know where this stands.  If anyone out there knows anything else — please post.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

3 thoughts on “Future of the human microbiome project (HMP) at NIH?”

  1. Hmm, I realize that's not any new information over what you said ;). So let me be more specific: it's definitely being worked on, but as with all things funding related, the financial resources are not yet known.


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