Skip to content
What's on

The microbiome: human medicine and agriculture in a microbial world

Conference

Location

The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Overview

The Royal Society

This one-day conference held by the Royal Society will bring together experts from both agricultural and human microbiome sectors to discuss the barriers to technology translation and common principles across both sectors. Speakers will discuss the challenges in determining microbiota through to the dynamic forces determining colony structures. The meeting will also explore intentional modulation of microbial populations to develop medical therapeutics and improvements in agricultural productivity, covering technical challenges in determining causation and methods to drive the technology forward.

Attending this event

This open event is free to attend and is intended for those with an interest in the life sciences sector, from a variety of backgrounds including academia, industry, government, as well as regulatory, charitable and other scientific bodies.

Contact the Industry team for more information.

About the conference series

This meeting forms part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our Future series. The meetings are unique, high-level events that address scientific and technical challenges of the next decade and bring together leading experts from wider scientific community, industry, government and charities.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

05 October

09:00-09:30

Registration and refreshments

09:30-09:35

Welcome remarks

1 talk Show detail Hide detail

Sir John Skehel FMedSci FRS, Vice-President and Biological Secretary, The Royal Society

Show speakers

09:35-10:30

Microbiomes: The translational landscape

2 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor Richard Flavell, CBE FRS

The Human microbiome from basic science to translation

Increasing Agricultural Productivity: The Continuum of Breeding, Biotech and Microbial Products

Dr Ray Riley, Ret. Senior VP Product Development, Indigo

Abstract

Over the past century, application of science to agriculture has enabled dramatic increases in productivity across the developed and the developing world.  Throughout this period, the science and tools leveraged to improve agricultural productivity have continued to evolve, as has underlying knowledge.  In parallel, developments in molecular biology over the past 50 years have ushered in GM crops (most of which incorporate genes from microbes into plants) and their widespread use across broad areas of agricultural production.  

While several microbial technologies, such as rhizobium, have been important to agriculture for several decades, emerging capabilities are advancing a new wave of microbial inputs into mainstream agricultural production.  Today’s microbial products have demonstrated an ability to improve crop performance under a wide range of stresses spanning heat, water, nutrients and pests.  Development of these products draws on the solid foundations of agricultural research while increasingly leveraging deep insights spanning microbes, their communities, seed genetics, agronomic practices and growing environments.

Show speakers

10:30-11:00

Coffee and networking

11:00-13:00

Understanding the diversity of microbiomes

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Mike Romanos, CEO Microbiotica

Analysing the human microbiome

Dr Rob Finn, European Bioinformatics Institute

Show speakers

Microbiomes for improving crop production

Professor Penny R Hirsch, Rothamsted Research

Abstract

For decades, the microbial community in soil has been appreciated as very large and diverse, essential for both terrestrial nutrient cycling and plant health, whilst remaining very poorly understood.  The recent advances in sequencing technology and bioinformatics have greatly improved our familiarity with soil and plant microbiomes, and the complex relationship between them.  Plants encounter bacteria and fungi in soil which, if they are proficient in utilising plant-derived substrates, proliferate in the rhizosphere.  They may colonise the rhizoplane and above-ground parts, some becoming endophytes.  Not all are beneficial, but the microbiome is reported to inhibit pests and pathogens, modulate plant growth and improve nutrient acquisition.  With global pressure to escalate food production whilst minimising fertilizer and agrochemical use, a better understanding of how to maximise the benefits of the plant microbiome becomes increasingly important.

Show speakers

The hygiene hypothesis and early life microbial colonisation

Dr Trevor Lawley, Wellcome Sanger Institute

Show speakers

Establishing better microbiomes outside and inside the plant for agricultural improvement

AgBiome: Harvesting the Plant Microbiome

Dr Tracy Raines, AgBiome

Abstract

AgBiome is a biotechnology company applying advanced knowledge of the plant-associated microbiome to create innovative products for agriculture. Our research platform allows us to efficiently capture and screen the most diverse and unique microbes for agriculturally relevant applications. To drive our discoveries, we use our in-depth knowledge of the crop microbiome and an extensive network of field-sampling partners to build an ever-expanding proprietary strain collection. This collection sources the discovery of new biologicals and trait genes for use in disease and pest control. 

Unlike many programs which only use metagenomic surveys, the AgBiome platform is focused on isolated microbial strains and their fully sequenced genomes, which gives us unparalleled insight into the detailed genomic composition of crop-associated microbes. Isolate sequences are used to de-replicate the collection and uncover true microbial diversity at an even deeper level than 16S rRNA identity alone. Microbes from our collection are screened in innovative high-throughput assays against a broad range of fungal pathogens, insect pests, and plant-parasitic nematodes. Successful candidates are tested in field trials and confirmed active biologicals proceed through our fermentation and formulation pipeline. As we continue to integrate sequence data with performance data across multiple assays and field trials, the AgBiome team will improve our ability to quickly identify active leads that are attractive product candidates and will begin to correlate the effect of microbe communities on plant health.

Show speakers

13:00-14:00

Lunch

14:00-16:00

Modulating microbiomes for health and agriculture

4 talks Show detail Hide detail

Host microbiome interactions in health and disease

Professor Eran Elinav, The Weizmann Institute of Science

Abstract

The mammalian intestine contains trillions of microbes, a community that is dominated by members of the domain Bacteria but also includes members of Archaea, Eukarya, and viruses. The vast repertoire of this microbiome functions in ways that benefit the host. The mucosal immune system co-evolves with the microbiota beginning at birth, acquiring the capacity to tolerate components of the community while maintaining the capacity to respond to invading pathogens. The gut microbiota is shaped and regulated by multiple factors including our genomic composition, the local intestinal niche and multiple environmental factors including our nutritional repertoire and bio-geographical location. Moreover, it has been recently highlighted that dysregulation of these genetic or environmental factors leads to aberrant hostmicrobiome interactions, ultimately predisposing to pathologies ranging from chronic inflammation, obesity, the metabolic syndrome and even cancer. We have identified various possible mechanisms participating in the reciprocal regulation between the host and the intestinal microbial ecosystem, and demonstrate that disruption of these factors, in mice and humans, lead to dysbiosis and susceptibility to common multi-factorial disease. Understanding the molecular basis of host-microbiome interactions may lead to development of new microbiome-targeting treatments.

Show speakers

A soil-borne legacy: Disease-induced assemblage of a plant-beneficial bacterial consortium

Dr Roeland Berendsen, Utrecht University

Abstract

Disease suppressive soils typically develop after a disease outbreak due to the subsequent assembly of protective microbiota in the rhizosphere. The role of the plant immune system in the assemblage of a protective rhizosphere microbiome is largely unknown. We recently demonstrated that Arabidopsis thaliana specifically promotes three bacterial species in the rhizosphere upon foliar defense activation by the downy mildew pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis. The promoted bacteria were isolated and found to interact synergistically in biofilm formation in vitro. Although separately these bacteria did not affect the plant significantly, together they induced systemic resistance against downy mildew and promoted growth of the plant. Moreover, we show that the soil-mediated legacy of a primary population of downy mildew infected plants confers enhanced protection against this pathogen in a second population of plants growing in the same soil. Together our results indicate that plants can adjust their root microbiome upon pathogen infection and specifically recruit a group of disease resistance-inducing and growth-promoting beneficial microbes, therewith potentially maximizing the chance of survival of their offspring that will grow in the same soil.

Show speakers

The bovine ruminal microbiome: structure and function

Professor John Wallace, University of Aberdeen

Abstract

Ruminants provide human society with high quality food from non-human-edible resources, but their emissions negatively impact the environment via greenhouse gas production. The rumen and its resident microorganisms, principally anaerobic bacteria and fungi, protozoa and archaea, dictate both processes.  Recently, a 1000 dairy cow study revealed a global core microbiome present in the rumen whose composition and abundance predicted many of the cows’ production phenotypes, including methane emission.  Certain members of the core microbiome are heritable and have strong associations to cardinal rumen metabolites and fermentation products that govern the efficiency of milk production. These heritable core microbes therefore present primary targets for rumen manipulation towards sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. Furthermore, complementary metagenomics studies in beef cattle have revealed a subset of microbial genes from which methane emissions and feed efficiency (the efficiency of conversion of feed consumed to weight gain) can be predicted.  The ruminal microbiome is predominantly determined by the composition of the feed, but the host animal also has a role in determining its composition and function.

Show speakers

Translating microbiome science into live therapeutic products

Dr David N. Cook, Executive Vice President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, Seres Therapeutics

Show speakers

16:00-16:30

Coffee and networking

16:30-17:30

Panel Session: Challenges, needs and opportunities over the next decade

1 talk Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Mike Romanos, CEO Microbiotica

Panellists (confirmed)

Professor Ian Charles, Director, Quadram Institute
Dr David N. Cook, Executive Vice President of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer, Seres Therapeutics
Dr Ray Riley, Ret. Senior VP Product Development, Indigo

Show speakers

17:30-17:35

Closing remarks

1 talk Show detail Hide detail

Professor Richard Flavell, CBE FRS

Show speakers

17:35-18:30

Drinks reception

Related events

The microbiome: human medicine and agriculture in a microbial world

A unique, high-level conference on the microbiome focusing on the emerging technology and barriers towards translation research.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK