Through building UK research capability in integrative microbiome research, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) expects to establish knowledge and evidence to enable management and usage of complex microbial communities in contexts relevant to our research priorities.
Applicants addressing this priority area should seek to move beyond descriptive characterisation of microbial community structure to tackle biologically significant questions.
Investigation of the function and influence of microbiomes is expected to require application of a range of complementary approaches, and collaborative multidisciplinary proposals are encouraged.
There are several key challenges relevant to the priority area.
Variation in microbiome composition
We are interested in exploring the significance of variation in microbiome composition within and between individual organisms, for example, humans, farm animals and plants. We are interested in how this relates to host genotype, phenotype and health status.
Disturbance of the microbiome
We are interested in determining principles governing the assembly, dynamics, stability and vulnerability to disturbance of the microbiome. This includes the influence of key biotic and abiotic factors (microbial, host, environmental).
Functional properties of the microbiome
We are interested in identifying and characterising functional properties of the microbiome, including:
- key microbial players and processes
- relationships between rare and abundant microbial species
- the microbial metabolic and signalling interactions taking place
- the genes and molecules driving the microbiome-host relationship.
Influence of the microbiome on host physiological processes
We are interested in building a mechanistic understanding of the influence of the microbiome on:
- host physiological processes
- immune systems
- developmental changes through the life course.
Proposals we welcome
Within this challenge context, we would particularly welcome proposals that are relevant to other priority areas, seek to resolve technological challenges, or employ novel approaches.
Other BBSRC priority areas
We would welcome proposals that are relevant to other BBSRC priority areas, for example:
- food, nutrition and health
- healthy ageing across the life course
- animal health
- sustainably enhancing agricultural production
- Bioenergy – replacement fuels for a greener sustainable future
- combatting antimicrobial resistance.
Resolving methodological and technological challenges
We welcome proposals that seek to resolve methodological and technological challenges, such as closing the gap in our ability to measure phenotypic characteristics of the microbiome and its constituents. We also welcome proposals with improved methods to analyse and manage microbiome data.
We are interested in proposals that employ modelling approaches to understand and predict the dynamics and systems properties of the microbiome and microbiome-host or environment interactions.
Advance biotechnological methods
We are interested in proposals that advance biotechnological methods to control, modify or engineer the microbiome for beneficial purposes.
Proposals should seek to address well defined biological questions about the role and function of the microbiome, or develop new methods and approaches that are relevant to microbiome research. It is expected that applicants will provide evidence of robust study design and sampling strategies, as well as a clear strategy describing how data will be analysed and managed.
BBSRC is uniquely positioned to advance understanding of microbiomes associated with a broad range of biological organisms, from underpinning through to strategic and applied studies. Proposals to study microbiomes in the context of animals, plants, soils, humans, industrial processes, model systems, or other environments are welcome where the research questions address BBSRC’s mission and remit.
Proposals should comply with our data sharing policy, which promotes the adoption of community standards and sharing of metadata.
Where a novel technology or methodology is developed during a project, researchers should consider its potential applications within the broad biosciences research community and beyond, including steps necessary to make them accessible and user friendly.
The translation of research outputs into practice through partnerships, application by industry, or by informing policy making is encouraged.
BBSRC considers impacts on training and the skills base to be particularly important for the development of UK microbiome research capability.
The priority area encourages research ranging from underpinning through to strategic and applied studies. End-user engagement is encouraged to promote translation of research findings to practical applications. Applicants should explain how, during the course of the project, they will take steps to maximise the broad impact of their research.
Resources can be requested for appropriate activities.