International Human Microbiome Consortium

Conference Coordinator:Good morning and welcome
to the International Human Microbiome Consortium media briefing hosted by the U.S. National
Institutes of Health. This briefing will last approximately 60 minutes. There will be five
primary speakers who will provide brief remarks and then members of the media will be able
to ask questions. To ask a question you can press star and 1
on your touchtone phone to enter the queue. You may remove yourself from the queue at
any time by simply pressing the pound key. This call will be recorded, transcribed, and
available on the websites of participating organizations including the National Human
Genome Research Institute. Now itís my pleasure to turn the program
over to your moderator Larry Thompson, Chief of Communications of the National Human Genome
Research Institute. Larry Thompson:Good morning or good afternoon
depending on where you are in the world. My name is Larry Thompson and I am the Communications
Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the U.S. and pleased to welcome
you to this briefing. A press release describing todayís announcement
will be found on the page – the home page of w – of the – of my Institute – of the Genome
Institute at and at the European Molecular Biology Lab at, O-R-G,
at the end of the briefing. Participating members of the newly organized
International Human Microbiome Consortium have been meeting in Heidelberg, Germany,
for the past two days and there are a number of participants. A number of countries will
be participating in this international effort including Australia, Canada, China, Europe
as in the European Commission which will be one of the main funding organizations along
with the U.S., France, Ireland, Japan, The Republic of Korea and of course the United
States. So our expert panel will describe the agreements
that have been reached, what they hope this consortium will accomplish. The panel in speaking
order will be Dr. Jane Peterson, Associate Director of Extramural Research at The National
Human Genome Research Institute representing the U.S. funders; Dr. Christian Desaintes
from the Research Directorate of the European Commission representing the European funders;
Dr. Dusko Ehrlich, Principal Investigator of the MetaHIT Project in Europe; Dr. George
Weinstock a Principal Investigator of the Human Microbiome Project in the United States;
and Dr. Peer Bork, Head of the IHMC Bioinformatics Group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory
and the host of this meeting in Heidelberg. So let us get started with opening remarks
by Dr. Peterson. Jane… Jane Peterson:Thank you. The NIH is very pleased
to be part of this international effort that we put together here in Heidelberg. Weíve
had extensive experience with other international collaborations such as The Humane Genome Project
when results have been very important in advanced science of – and under our understanding of
human health. The whole is usually greater than the sum of the parts in these collaborations. This collaboration will take a genome approach
to identifying all the key microorganisms that live in and on the body for the purpose
of understanding their contribution to health and disease. And when I say genome approach,
I mean, sampling the body parts and base — and sequencing the DNA from a variety of
organisms that we find there. This provides the identity of most types of organisms present
in the sample, even those that are difficult to culture from human tissue. The European Commission and the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services on behalf of the U.S. Government have signed a letter of
intent to collaborate on this effort and this letter spells out a number of important components
of the governmentís (unintelligible) and collaboration that — and these elements have
now been, for the most part, have been adopted by the International Human Microbiome Consortium. These principals are free and open release
of data and resources generated by these projects, coordination of research plans to make them
as efficient as possible and for efficient use of resources on unnecessary duplication
and to share innovative developments on how best to answer the questions raised by the
project. Iím looking forward to this collaboration.
I think itís going to be a wonderful collaboration that weíve put together and weíll learn
a lot from each other. Iím going to turn it over now to Dr. Christian
Desaintes from the European Commission. Christian Desaintes:Thank you Jane. Iím pleased
that the European Commission is playing a leadership and funding role in the International
Human Microbiome Consortium that will lead to understanding how our microbial companions
impact on our health. Iím also pleased that there is a formal agreement between the European
Commission and the U.S. Government to formalize this effort and to ensure that high quality
research will be accomplished by the researchers supported through this enterprise. The agreement between the two countries and
other counties from other parts of the world that have yet to join the Consortium continues
the tradition of international collaboration which has been such a benefit for all peoples
everywhere. Sharing the knowledge generated within this
consortium with researchers around the world is crucial for determining the complex role
of the microbiome in viral disease. Sharing this knowledge will accelerate the discovery
of better drugs for different pathology as well as improve prevention of illness in people
of any age or nationality. During the meeting here in Heidelberg we agreed
to general principals for membership and common policies to provide data rapidly into public
databases. It became also clear – apparent that participation through the International
Human Microbiome Consortium might involve 8 to 11 projects from 10 different countries.
Globally we estimate that more than 200 million U.S. dollars will be committed to the International
Human Microbiome Consortium. In five years we expect to be sequencing more
than 1000 microbial genomes and sampling will be taken from more than 1000 individuals of
different body types. I will now turn it to Dusko Ehrlich. Dusko Ehrlich:We know that there are ten times
more microbial cells in our own body than our own cells. That there are 100 times more
microbial genes that are active in our body than our own genes. We know that microbes
that live with us play an important role in our health and disease, but we do not know
(by far) what these microorganisms are and how do they act. IHMC aims to provide description of microbial
genes and genomes and find how do they work. This should lead to better understanding of
human biology and also better understanding of disease and health. The MetaHIT Project will contribute first
to the reference catalog of genes and genomes. By analyzing individuals from two European
regions Mediterranean in Spain, and Nordic in Denmark and it will focus on two pathologies
of increasing social importance: Obesity and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Meta genome from some 400 individuals will
be examined by high – very high (unintelligible) DNA sequencing techniques searching for associations
between bacterial genes and human disease. So MetaHIT fits perfectly with our goals of
IHMC and participants in the project are pleased and proud to be part of IHMC. I will pass now the microphone to George Weinstock. George Weinstock:Thank you Dusko. So Iím
here with my colleagues from other genome centers in the U.S. representing the NIH component
of the Human Microbiome Project. So Iím at the Washington University genome
center and my colleagues are from the genome center at the Broad Institute in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, Baylor College of Medicineís genome center in Houston, and the J. Craig
Venter Institute which is in Rockville, Maryland. And then we also have the leader of the data
center which is at the University of Maryland here and that group really comprises the main
infrastructure for the NIH program. The NIH program is focusing on articulating
the microbial composition of five body sites; oral, vaginal, skin, nasal and gastrointestinal
tract microorganisms. And weíre at the moment focusing on describing the microbial communities
in healthy or normal individuals as a prelude to studying how those communities change to
cause disease or to be affected by disease states. We are extremely excited about what
happened here in the last two days with the international community, because you know
there were very, very few projects that allow us to get scientists together from all the
points of the compass with a common goal in a project of this scale and this importance. So we spent the last two days without any
difficulty coming to agreements about data release, about ethical considerations, about
technology, about the different projects going on in the different parts of the world, and
I think weíre all very excited about looking forward to how the bridges that weíve started
to build here will be enhanced and allow all of us to do our projects locally as well as
the synergy that comes from getting people together with different ideas. So Iíll pass it now to Peer Bork who is at
the European Molecular Biology Lab here in Heidelberg. Peer Bork:Yeah thanks. As a local organizer
I also would like to express my excitement of the meetings that so many people could
agree on a number of very complex and complicated issues such as data release as was mentioned
and also (unintelligible) that includes (EPI) that promote open access so we are very happy
with the option here to vote for open access policies for the data. And that comes to the issue where lots of
effort has been spent because of the flow of (unintelligible) genome data and integration.
Because these data will be (unintelligible) from very different coming from parts of the
world with very different premises and projects. So the data range from deep profiling with
individuals to broad spectrum studies under various conditions for some diseases conditions
and the lots of contextual data that becomes meta data, age, gender, et cetera, et cetera,
which adds a huge value to understand those data and the impact on health and the body. So bioinformatics is a (unintelligible) a
huge challenge and accessing research against the two large projects, NIH and Europe setup
centers for the correlation and considered analysis of the data and weíll closely interact.
The data will also be released via the MCBI or BBI in an open access way. So whatís next (unintelligible) a kind of
spectrum analysis and (unintelligible) it has to be discovered for example how the species
and genome composition change over time till we have our own (unintelligible) species each
and (unintelligible) individual (unintelligible). So (unintelligible) I think very soon the
first disease – study for disease impact regarding diagnostics for example are to be expected. With that, itís off to Larry I guess. Larry Thompson:Okay yes. So this is Larry
Thompson again. So we have several folks on the phone so if you guys would like to ask
a question of the expert panel, now would be the time to indicate that to (Kevin). So
(Kevin), want to give us the instructions again please? Conference Coordinator:Certainly. At this
time if youíd like to ask a question please press the star and 1 on your touchtone phone.
You may withdraw yourself at any time from the queue by pressing the pound key. Once
again to ask a question, please press the star and 1 on your touchtone phone. Larry Thompson:Okay I donít…There we go.
So (Anna) would you like to go ahead and ask the first question. Would you please tell
us where youíre from? Introduce yourself and tell us where youíre from, please. (Anna Pederick):Sure hi my name is (Anna Pederick),
Iím from (Nature), Iím the (Research Highlights Editor). I would like to ask a bit more about
the project looking at Nordic and Mediterranean people. I did hope someone could just tell
me a bit more information about that. Dusko Ehrlich:Okay so the MetaHIT Project
which will look at… ((Crosstalk))) Larry Thompson:Excuse me sir, because we canít
see anybodyís faces, our expert panel, would you also please identify yourself when youíre
responding so the reporters will know whoís speaking. Dusko Ehrlich:Thank you for the reminder.
I thought that my accent will be so difficult. Dusko Ehrlich, MetaHIT Coordinator. So MetaHIT
is focusing on populations in Spain and in Denmark. We will get information about healthy
individuals basically as a control for patients in Barcelona where the study is being conducted
will focus on patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease; while in Denmark. In the Copenhagen
area we will focus on Obesity. Then (unintelligible) in Spain we will have healthy control. Now the Danish study is quite interesting
because the cohort that weíll be using has been (unintelligible) already in 1999 to reflect
genetically the population in the – in Denmark in Copenhagen region. So we will get interesting
data about that. Larry Thompson:Okay. Does that meet your needs
(Anna)? (Anna Pederick):Yeah. It did. So just so I
understand, the Barcelona study is looking at healthy controls to compare to future studies
and the Copenhagen study is actually a cohort of people – of obese people and people who
arenít yet obese, is that correct? Dusko Ehrlich:In the MetaHIT study it is a
cohort of obese people and of course healthy control. In MetaHIT we will be studying about
200 individuals drawn from the 5000 strong cohort which really a very small subpopulation
of the whole (unintelligible) ë99 cohort. Larry Thompson:Okay I donít have any other
questions in the queue so reporters who are on the phone if anybody else would like to
ask another question, please indicate by, you know, doing whatever it was that (Kevin)
said a minute ago. Star, 1 I guess is what youíre supposed to point. Okay so Gretchen has indicated she would like
to do a story, or ask a question so Gretchen would you introduce yourself and tell us where
youíre from and go ahead with your question please. Gretchen Vogel:Gretchen Vogel from Science
Magazine. Just a quick follow-up question to (Anna)ís question and then a separate
question, 200 individuals from the 5000 strong cohort you said, are those individuals then
all obese or is that a mixture of obese and non-obese individuals? Dusko Ehrlich:Itís a mixture of obese and
non-obese. Sixty have non-obese, 60 have a particular obese genotype which is (unintelligible),
and 60 have another genotype of obesity which is subcutaneous obesity. The reason is that
comorbidity is correlated with the first type but not with the second type and we are very
interested in finding out whether of course microbiome in these populations are different. Gretchen Vogel:Okay and youíre looking at
the gut microbiome then for those? Dusko Ehrlich:Yes that is correct. Iím sorry
I should have specified that. Gretchen Vogel:Okay. Good and then in general,
I understand that youíre very excited – youíre all very excited about these agreements
that have been signed, what I didnít quite grasp is whatís new here? How will this change
your work? These projects were already underway. Does this guarantee new money? Is this new
rules about how these projects will then release their data? That was brought up a couple of
times. New methods of coordinating who does what? Can anybody sort of summarize for me
a couple of the most important impacts that these agreements will have on how research
is conducted? Jane Peterson:This is Jane Peterson. Iím
going to try to answer this but I invite my colleagues here to add topics that I might
not think of. So whatís new here is that this is a field that really is very young.
Itís – we all met together for the first time two and a half years ago I think, maybe
three, and we all realized that there was a growing interest in studying this field
and that there was more to be gained by collaborating and propo – promoting the field than there
was to working alone. So whatís very important in the human microbiome
– in studying the human microbiome is comparing results from all around the world. And as
you heard we have nine countries represented here from around the world. So environment
has a significant impact on human microbiome content and proportions, et cetera, so thatís
one important thing that weíll get out of the collaboration, an ability to compare those
data directly. Of course anybody can access the data and do that also, but the Consortium
working together will have a very efficient way of doing that. Important about this meeting was that we all
agreed that the data will be open so that we can all look at the data and so that the
rest of the world can look at it and ask questions that we would never have thought of. And then you also asked about does this get
us more funds. Some on the projects such as the MetaHIT Project and the NIH Human Microbiome
Project are already set in amount of funds. The Canadian project has a set amount of funds.
Let me think about the other ones — the Korean project but some – and the Chinese project,
but some of the others, such as Australia and Ireland perhaps – are still in the formation
of their consortiums and theyíre putting to – and they are still looking for additional
funds, so it may actually increase the funds in the long run. But what we hope – the whole consortium –
the interest in human microbiome across the world will do is stimulate funding around
the world for the – this area of research in looking at human disease. Man:This is (unintelligible) form the (Community
Republic Research Project) let me take another angle of this (unintelligible) direction.
Thereís a lot of buzz around what this means and I think that one of the consequences of
the (unintelligible) interaction where this project clearly going to have a major impact.
I think that we will understand a lot more about the environmental influence on ourselves
than we ever did ever before. Gretchen Vogel:Because you have – Iím sorry,
is that because you have access to more environments around the world eventually? ((Crosstalk))) Man:Absolutely. Isolated populations, special
populations that they are – whether they are in China or whether they are in UK, Europe,
or North America, I think we have unique opportunity here. Gretchen Vogel:Can I have one more follow-up? Larry Thompson:Yes. Go ahead. Gretchen Vogel:One thing I noticed is that
most of the participants are from industrialized countries. Are there any projects that are
looking at the differences between or looking at populations in say Africa or South America
or from developing countries? Man:Well China probably is not an industrialized
country yet. Gretchen Vogel:Okay. Man:So we – Iím (unintelligible) from (unintelligible)
University and Iím Coordinator for Chinese MetaHIT Project which is to look at the reason
behind why when we change our diet from traditional to more western type in the past 20 years
also we have a dramatic increase of metabolic diseases dietary related. Probably gut microbial
plays a substantial role in this change of disease spectrum. And so one thing we are doing now is trying
to sequence the metagenome of 10 Chinese healthy – Chinese people who are still keeping the
traditional diet and so these can be used as a reference for us to understand why change
of diet to western type will make Chinese people become susceptible to metabolic diseases.
And this is what we are doing for this part of the Chinese Project. Dusko Ehrlich:Dusko Ehrlich here. Maybe I
just like to add couple of statements. First, you know, Metagenome is huge. Much bigger
than the Human Genome. It is just not conceivable for anybody to do it on his or her own. People
needed to get together. So clearly when you work together, when you pool the data, when
you get comprehensive description of metagenome, there is great benefit and that is one of
the objectives of IHMC. Now the point about the places in the world
where there are not resources to do that because of course it requires resources. You have
to keep in mind that – something keep in mind that description of human metagenome is extremely
poor yet. We have to start somewhere. So we are starting in places where resources are
unavailable. But it would be of course wonderful and we
need to meet the challenge how do we address metagenome in places where resources are not
available? Should we be thinking about approaching a foundation like Bill Gates to help us get
information for African populations? Well thatís one thought. How do we deal with most
of Africa? Can we get their friends who live in richer oil countries to help that? I donít
know. But it is a question that we havenít addressed yet that is in front of us and that
we need to address. Jane Peterson:This is Jane Peterson again.
I should mention that weíve had interest from an investigator in Mexico which again
is sort of in between an industrialized country and one of the countries that is getting to
industrialized. Oh and thereís also interest from India and so we donít know quite how
those countries are going to work into the Consortium. Larry Thompson:Okay. Somebody else? Gretchen
did you have a follow-up? Nope. So if there is anybody else, I donít have any other questions
in the queue currently if – does anybody else have a question? Is anybody else there? Got cut off, man. Thatís not good. You got
the phone number for me there? Man:(Unintelligible). Conference Coordinator:And (Larry Davis)ís
line has been reconnected – or Larry Thompsonís line has been reconnected. Is (Sally Davis)ís
line still on? Woman:Yes, weíre still here. Larry Thompson:Okay and is anybody, any other
reporters still on the line? Because I can see them (Kevin), but can you confirm there
still there? I still see Gretchen Vogel and thatís about it actually. Conference Coordinator:Yes we still have Gretchen
Vogelís line and a (Lynn Wegner) and (Rebecca Colberg). Larry Thompson:Okay. Okay so. Actually the
only reporter that we still seem to have on the line is Gretchen. So Gretchen I guess
if you have any other questions you got the whole panel and if not weíll bring this to
a conclusion. I canít hear anybody. Conference Coordinator:Gretchen youíre line
is reopened. You can ask your question. Gretchen Vogel:Okay I guess since I have the
– I have an exclusive, Iíll ask another question. ((Crosstalk))) Larry Thompson:Please do. Please go ahead. Gretchen Vogel:Just to follow-up briefly,
just so I make sure I understood correctly. The agreements that come out of this will
definitely assist in coordinating data sharing and then is there a master plan for dividing
up the work or is that something that will sort of happen as the projects get under way
and as more people join the Consortium? How will that be handled? Or have you already
come up – have you come up with a master plan as part of your meeting here? Jane Peterson:This is Jane Peterson again.
Their – each group will do their own research. Some of us are looking at healthy individuals,
some are looking at different diseases, a lot are looking in the gut at different gut
related diseases, thereís one looking at (Asian) people. Iím trying to think what
the other sites are. And then we will meet together to discuss
and obviously our data will be shared because it will be freely available. So weíre not
– itís not like Human Genome where weíre all doing the same – working with the same
samples. Weíre all working with different samples to generate information about the
same biological site I guess I would say. Does anybody want to add to that? What are
different diseases or (unintelligible). (Joel Dore):(Joel Dore) from France. Iíll
just add a word. We have seen projects emerging, focusing on the sequencing of the genome of
individual bacterial strains isolated from the human gut and it was quite obvious that
the sharing of information and arbitration on decisions on who is doing which genome
was quite important and the IHMC discussions are contributing very significantly towards
this organization. Jane Peterson:That reminds me. We will have
a common strain list that all the groups are doing and we will not duplicate, so if —
this is for the whole genome sequencing. So weíll make sure that the groups that are
sequencing the entire genome of a microbe will be doing something unique and wonít
be duplicating it with another country. But the metagenomic studies are being done on
all different types of cohorts. Gretchen Vogel:Sure that makes sense. Larry Thompson:Okay. Are there any other questions? Conference Coordinator:Again as a reminder,
if youíd like to ask a question please press the star and 1 on your touchtone phone. Larry Thompson:And Iím not seeing any. Are
your – do you got everything you need Gretchen? And Iím going to guess thatís a yes. So
I guess I would like to bring this to a close then and thank everyone for participating
in todayís briefing. Iíll remind you that there will be a press
release put up on – about this Consortium announcement on both and
where there will also be media contact numbers for the media, for the press if you need to
try to reach anybody although most of the participants are in Heidelberg so weíll do
the best we can to hook you up. And then we will post the audio of this file
as quickly as we can, followed by a transcript as soon as thatís completed. So again Iíd like to thank everyone for participating
and with that Iíd like to bring this briefing to a close. Thank you. Conference Coordinator:This does conclude
todayís teleconference. You may disconnect now. Thank you and have a great day. END

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