Professor Katrine L. Whiteson, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, joined other U.S. scientists Friday, May 13 at an event hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology, to announce a new National Microbiome Initiative to foster the 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 and help 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.
Professor Whiteson, who also has a joint appointment in pediatrics, studies microbes associated with humans, both those causing illness and creating good health. Her group is now joining forces with labs across the UC system to establish larger studies.
With support from UCI’s Institute for Clinical Translational Science, Professor Whiteson is helping form the UC Center for Pediatric Microbiome Research with experienced scientists and physicians from other UC campuses. The joint effort aims to understand microbial development in childhood and leverage this knowledge to promote childhood health.
“I am optimistic that the research we are doing as a field could lead to important changes in our future health as a population,” she said. “It’s important that we study microbiome development early in life, when the potential to make an impact is the greatest.
“I am very glad that the White House is investing energy and resources in this research effort that could have important consequences for all of our health. I also loved getting to tell my kids that I was invited to the White House, a place that all of us have heard of. After seeing it in the news and watching ‘House of Cards,’ it was exciting to get to visit.”