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The Oxford Microbiome Network (OMiN) aims to facilitate collaborations, knowledge sharing, and access to resources for microbiome researchers across Oxford. OMiN is co-led by researchers in the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology and the Department of Biology. The network officially launched on 20th May 2024 with an event at Keble College.

Group photo of members of the Oxford Microbiome Network (OMiN) at its launch event on 20 May 2024 at Keble College

Complex ‘microbiomes’ consisting of communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses exist everywhere from the soil around a plant root to the human body and the New York subway. In recent years, it has become clear that changes to the microbiome can have profound effects on human and animal health and the environment. The composition of a cancer patient’s gut microbiome can affect how well chemotherapy will work for them. The community of bacteria found near the root of a crop plant can affect the plant’s ability to withstand climate change.

An ever-expanding list of how microbiomes affect health, disease, and the environment, combined with novel tools for studying and altering microbiomes, has led to an explosion of microbiome research in recent years. University of Oxford researchers within a broad range of departments are studying microbiomes in humans, plants, aquatic ecosystems, the atmosphere, food, and many other areas. Although research areas are diverse, many of the tools used to study the microbiome, such as high-throughput sequencing technologies, microbial culturing, and bioinformatic data analysis, are universally important. Microbiome research works best when it is interdisciplinary, but the fact that microbiome researchers are spread within the University limits their ability to interact and to share expertise and resources.

The Oxford Microbiome Network (OMiN) was established to bring together microbiome researchers across the University of Oxford. In doing so, the network leaders hope to foster new collaborations and improve access to the training, technologies, and equipment which are crucial to all microbiome research. The network is led by Dr Jethro Johnson (Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology), Professor Gail Preston (Department of Biology) and Associate Professor Sarah Knowles (Department of Biology) and is coordinated by Chik On Choy (Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology).

The OMiN launch event took place on 20th May 2024 at Keble College, Oxford. Engaging talks about the microbiome in precision psychiatry and plant roots were followed by breakout sessions aimed at shaping the direction of OMiN in ways that would most benefit researchers, covering collaboration, training, and translational approaches. The event ended with a series of short presentations on the resources available to the network, such that OMiN members can start to build productive collaborations. Attendees from across the University of Oxford also enjoyed the opportunity to network with other researchers over coffee and cake. This type of meeting is expected to happen several times per year, but network members can interact at any time through OMiN’s communication channels.

Find our more on the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology website