Hutch News

Fredricks wins $2 million share of Human Microbiome Project

Grant aids technology development

Sept. 20, 2010
Dr. David Fredricks

Dr. David Fredricks will develop new technologies and projects designed to link changes in the human microbiome to health and disease.

Photo by Susie Fitzhugh

Dr. David Fredricks of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division was recently granted a $2 million, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to create new technology for vaginal bacteria cultivation as part of NIH’s Human Microbiome Project.

The human microbiome comprises all the microorganisms that reside in or on the human body. It consists of beneficial and harmful microbes that include bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes.

Fredricks is one of six investigators who will develop new technologies along with projects designed to link changes in the human microbiome to health and disease. The Human Microbiome Project, a $157 million, five-year effort launched in 2008, will produce a resource for researchers seeking to understand the function of the human microbiome and to develop new therapies.

Fredricks studies bacterial vaginosis, a common and usually benign disease that affects 29 percent of women in the United States. It is linked to serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease and an increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases and preterm delivery.

Historically, microbes have been studied in the laboratory as cultures of isolated species. Microbial growth is dependent upon a very specific natural environment, and it is often difficult to duplicate these conditions in a laboratory. Therefore, the development of novel and innovative technologies is needed to improve and refine the identification and characterization of the microbes that comprise the complex mixtures found in and on our bodies.

The Human Microbiome Project is funded through the NIH Common Fund. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH institute could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research.

[Adapted from an NIH news release]

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