Big data insights driving funding for EU microbiome research - MyNewGut Project

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The number of health-related microbiome projects has almost doubled in the last three years, with EU funding almost twice that of non-health related gut research.

According to the European Commission (EC), 73 microbiome health projects received €167.2m in grants between 2014 and 2017 – up from the €153.4m given to 40 projects between 2007 and 2013.

“The huge hidden diversity of 100 trillion bacteria coupled with the isolated position of metagenomics are examples of developments driving this increase in funding,”​ said Dirk Hadrich, European Commission officer in the health directorate`s innovative and personalised medicine unit.

“Maturity of analytical technologies, expansion of metagenomics into other areas, hope on the potential of microbiome data and trends in big data sets are other observed trends in gut research.”

Speaking at the final conference of the MyNewGut project, Hadrich pointed to some of the challenges that microbiome research, particularly that relevant to personalisation, would encounter as insights became deeper and more complex.

Microbial competition and adaption

Dirk Hadrich
Dirk Hadrich, European commission officer in the health directorate`s innovative and personalised medicine unit. ©DirkHadrich

Apart from the ‘Multi-omics’ factor that needed to take lifestyle, drugs and geography into account, the aspect of microbial competition and adaption was also worthy of consideration.

Their interplay with the environment, such as method of microbial transmission, was highlighted, as was the prospect of bigger cohorts making the open access process easier.

Data considerations were also taken into account, as harmonised methods were imperative in order to increase data comparability as well as facilities to ensure accurate sample collection, storage and data processing

Hadrich pointed to an article featured in Nature​, earlier this month, in which its author describes the usefulness of the UK Biobank project as going beyond clinical relevance, offering lessons for researchers establishing population-cohort and genomic-medicine projects elsewhere.

The UK Biobank has made its full data sets, as well as all results from studies conducted by researchers using these data, available from the outset.

While this move paves the way to precision medicine, its principles can apply to personalised nutrition.

Combining UK Biobank data with other data sets enable studies to take place on a much larger scale (over 1 million individuals), which as the editorial states, uses the ‘wisdom from crowds’ to garner deeper insights that are relevant to a much wider population.

The MultipleMS project

My New Gut logo
MyNewGut Final Conference took place in Brussels this year. ©MyNewGut

As well as MyNewGut, Hadrich pointed to other gut and nutrition-related projects such as the MultipleMS Project, an EU-funded investigation that looks into the link between multi-omics, lifestyle and nutrition with the onset of multiple sclerosis.

“MultipleMS will develop, validate, and exploit methods for patient stratification in Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease and a leading causes of non-traumatic disability in young adults, with an estimated cost of €37 000 per patient per year over a duration of 30 years,”​ the objective stated.

Here we benefit from several large clinical cohorts with multiple data types, including genetic andlifestyle information.

“This in combination with publically available multi-omics maps enables us to identify biomarkers of the clinical course and the response to existing therapies in a real-world setting.”

In concluding his thoughts on how to promote personalisation approaches in future, Hadrich pointed to ‘integration and multi-disciplinarity’​ as approaches that move away from a data silo approach.

“Involve people who hope to benefit,”​ he added while “moving from reactive to proactive approaches: predictive, preventive, and personalised solutions for the individual.”

Hadrich also recommended the inclusion of high impact applications that would benefit end-users and citizens.

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