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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

DCEG Hosts Workshop on Microbiome Quality Control

by Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H.

On September 30 and October 1, DCEG hosted the first workshop to review findings from the MicroBiome Quality Control (MBQC) Project. The MBQC Project is a collaborative effort to comprehensively evaluate appropriate methodologies for this growing field of research, including variability in microbial assessment in sampling handling (including DNA extraction, DNA amplification, and sequencing) and bioinformatics.

Microbiome Quality Control workshop participants.

Over 50 researchers participated in the workshop, representing the broad spectrum of scientific expertise required for this effort.

DCEG Director Stephen J. Chanock, M.D., opened the workshop with his reflections on certain successes in human genetic research, such as standardization of laboratory procedures that now can be applied to human microbiome research.

Next, Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., Deputy Chief of the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch (NEB), outlined the design of the MBQC Project. Overall, 15 DNA extraction and sequencing labs and 9 bioinformatics groups have contributed to the effort. Dr. Curtis Huttenhower, Harvard School of Public Health, presented preliminary results from the project, which stimulated discussion on sources of variability across laboratories.

Dr. Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, a former NEB fellow and MBQC workshop participant, commented “as a young investigator, it was exciting to be a part of this multidisciplinary meeting where everyone was working toward a common goal to improve not only the current state of science, but to make the best choices now to be ready for what’s coming next in the field.”

On day two, participants broke into three sessions covering collection and storage of human microbial samples, the MBQC pilot analysis and manuscript development, and controls and standards for microbial samples. Following these sessions, Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Acting Chief of NEB, gave an overview of the methodological concerns for the inclusion of microbial assessment in epidemiological research. The workshop concluded with a group discussion of the main MBQC pilot study and the next steps for microbiome quality control studies.

Other workshop speakers included Dr. Joe Petrosino, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, University of Guelph; Dr. Heidi Kong, NCI Center for Cancer Research; Dr. Anthony Fodor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Dr. Janet Jansson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Dr. Jessica Green, University of Oregon.

The MBQC Steering Committee includes Dr. Abnet, Dr. Huttenhower, Dr. Rob Knight, University of Colorado Boulder, Dr. Sinha, and Dr. Owen White, University of Maryland.

For more information, visit the MBQC Project website.