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Grand Challenges: Microbiome Sciences

Grant Type: Impact Award
Topics: Global Health and Climate Change
Colleges Represented: CMNS, AGNR, ENGR

Grand Challenges Grants Program


Complex microbiomes inhabiting the bodies of humans and animals and our environment are critical to our health and that of our planet.

Soil microbiomes help nourish plants, degrade toxins, and produce compounds that have medical or industrial uses, such as antibiotics. Climate change is affecting the functioning and composition of these microbiomes, thus creating new challenges in medicine, agriculture, and the maintenance of the environmental processes that humans depend on to grow food and live.

Developing the ability to rapidly assess, characterize and manipulate microbial communities is critical to adapting and countering the effects of our changing world. Achieving this goal requires a much deeper understanding of the microbiome than we currently possess, as well as the creation of a comprehensive toolkit of measurement devices, techniques and protocols for evaluating, isolating and manipulating microbial communities, as well as—critically important in this data intensive field—the associated computational analytic frameworks.

This initiative will conduct transformative research, develop new technologies, advance microbiome science, and translate microbiome science into innovative interventions and economic growth.

The center's three-part mission includes the following:

1. Advance cutting-edge and transformative interdisciplinary research in microbiome sciences.

2. Train future generations of scientists and help develop a regional workforce with strong expertise in microbiome sciences.

3. Support the development of a regional innovation ecosystem that contributes to economic growth in microbiome-related industries within Maryland.

Team Members:

PI: Mihai Pop (CMNS), Professor and Director, Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

Mostafa Ghanem (AGNR), Assistant Professor, Veterinary Medicine

Birthe Kjellerup (ENGR), Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Shirley Micallef (AGNR), Associate Professor, Center for Food Safety and Security Systems

Brantley Hall (CMNS), Assistant Professor, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

William Bentley (ENGR), Robert E. Fischell Distinguished Professor, Director, Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices, and Director, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute

Reza Ghodssi (ENGR), Professor, Herbert Rabin Distinguished Chair in Engineering

Elizabeth Quinlan (CMNS), Professor of Biology, and Director, Brain and Behavior Institute

Stephanie Yarwood (AGNR), Associate Professor, Environmental Science and Technology


  • Mid-Atlantic Microbiome Meet-up (M3) Consortium
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