Amid the many bills state legislators are considering this General Assembly session, perhaps the most consequential is SB 539, which charges a working group to develop a plan to create a thriving microbiome sector.

The microbiome is what scientists call the 100 trillion microorganisms living on and within each of us.

Their number exceeds the cells in a human body by a ratio of 10:1, and we each pack from 2 to 6 lbs. of them.

Microbiome research and development has great potential to improve disease outcomes—and also Connecticut's economy.

We are all familiar with antibiotics—medicines that kill harmful bacteria—and many of us are learning about probiotics, bacteria that we ingest or already living within us that promote better health.

Microbiome research and development is about understanding the workings of the array of microorganisms we harbor in our bodies, the interplay among them, and how they affect the functioning of our health.

One theory holds that adding to, deleting from, or adjusting the balance of our individual microbiomes could have dramatic effects on health.

Already difficult antibiotic-resistant infections of the stomach and ear are being treated successfully by transplanting a sample from the microbiome of a healthy person into patients with an otherwise untreatable disease.

DNA Tools

Microbiome research and development has been made possible by two hugely important and recently introduced tools.

The first is DNA sequencing.

It took almost 15 years and $2.7 billion to sequence—decode—the first human genome. Today it takes under a day and less than $1,000.

Our research institutes—Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine—lead in microbiome basic research.
This means that DNA sequencing can be conducted on the microbes inhabiting our microbiomes to better understand the interplay between them and us.

The second new tool is CRISPR—an acronym for an efficient way to cut out defective or harmful DNA and splice in repaired or beneficial sections of DNA

Before CRISPR the idea of DNA repair was just that—a concept. Now, it's a reality that will make it possible to repair our own DNA and the DNA of our microbiome.

Expertise

The microbiome and the tools that make microbiome research and development possible are important to Connecticut because we have particular expertise in these areas.

Our research institutes—Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine—lead in microbiome basic research.

They and many of our CBIA biotech companies—most notably, Sema4 in Stamford and Branford—lead in DNA sequencing and CRISPR technology.

Microbiome research is increasingly compared to semi-conductor research in the 1940 and 1950s.

That's when investments made in computer technology had great consequence: They created the jobs and wealth that is Silicon Valley.

That's why it's difficult to overstate the importance of developing a strategy for Connecticut's microbiome sector.


For more information, contact CBIA's Paul Pescatello (860.244.1938) | @CTBio