Within the Quadram Institute, we are assembling an interdisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians to understand the role that our resident gut microbial community plays in determining our health. Our aims are to understand in what ways the gut microbiota help us maintain a healthy state, and the changes that occur that lead to disease. With this more mechanistic understanding of the links between gut microbes and health, we will be able to develop more effective, targeted and timely interventions to maintain health and tackle age-related diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and dementia.
To understand how what makes a healthy microbiome, we will be studying how the gut is initially colonised by microbes in the first months and years of life, and how this contributes to lifelong health. We will provide a better understanding of how the mutually beneficial relationship between gut microbes and the host organism is established by defining the intercommunication and crosstalk between them, and define the mechanisms within the host that tolerate the presence of beneficial microbes.
We will establish how the microbiome influences health throughout our life, through uncovering how it influences immunity and other physiological systems such as the endocrine system and the liver. We will elucidate the microbial cues capable of driving hunger and satiety responses that influence metabolic health, and other implications of the microbiota’s interactions with the central nervous system.
We will look at how lifestyle, diet, the environment and ageing lead to changes in the microbiota, and how these changes may lead to poor health, and also how major alterations in the microbial communities link to chronic diseases. With an ageing population threatening to increase pressures on the healthcare system, we will have a particular focus on studying the decline of the microbiome during old age.
The close collaboration between researchers and clinicians within the Quadram Institute means that we can translate our fundamental new knowledge of the microbiome’s influence on health and turn it into novel therapeutics. We will be at the forefront of the development of new biomarkers for sub-optimal gut health, or microbiota-related conditions, allowing swifter diagnosis and more efficient treatment. QI’s expertise in food science will allow us to design new prebiotic or probiotic foods to maintain or restore a healthy microbiota. We will be seeking to work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop more effective, targeted drugs, as well as calling on our expertise in virology to understand the viral component of the microbiota and to develop virus-based phage therapies. And we will be looking to expand on our success by exploring the use of microbiota transplants to counter the most serious cases linked to microbes in the gut.
Realising our ambition of understanding the microbiome and developing microbiotal therapies needs the multidisciplinary approach that the Quadram Institute has brought together in one building. Microbiologists will add their knowledge of the basic biology at the cell and colony level to the genetics and genomics expertise within QI and in our partners on the Norwich Research Park. Biomathematicians and modellers will unravel the highly complex interactions between microbial species and with the host’s cells. And we have the immunologists, gut biologists and clinicians providing their understanding of the human body, which coupled with facilities for clinical trials and work with volunteer patients, brings together all the elements needed to fully explore the microbiome’s influence on health.