UCI biologist Katrine Whiteson joined other U.S. scientists Friday, May 13, at an event hosted by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy to announce a new National Microbiome Initiative that will foster integrated study of microbiomes across different ecosystems. Microbiomes are the communities of microorganisms that live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans and the atmosphere; they maintain healthy function of these diverse ecosystems. The White House event brought attention to efforts to advance microbiome research in areas such as healthcare, food safety and security, environmental protection and bioenergy production. Whiteson, an assistant professor of molecular biology & biochemistry at UCI with a joint appointment in pediatrics, studies the microbes associated with humans, in sickness and in health, and her group is joining forces with labs across the University of California system to establish larger studies. With support from UCI’s Institute for Clinical & Translational Science, Whiteson is doing this by helping form the UC Center for Pediatric Microbiome Research with experienced scientists and physicians from other UC campuses. The joint effort aims to shed light on microbial development in childhood and leverage this knowledge to promote childhood health. “I am optimistic that the research we’re doing as a field could lead to important changes in our future health as a population,” Whiteson said. “It’s important that we study microbiome development early in life, when the potential to make an impact is the greatest.”

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