Monkey business pays off for award-winning microbiome researcher


Monday, 09 October, 2017

Dr Michael Montague from the University of Pennsylvania has been declared the winner of the 2017 Microbiome Awards, sponsored by assay technology company QIAGEN.

The annual awards program seeks to provide extraordinary scientists with recognition for their scientific work in the field of microbiome research. The judging panel consists of independent, distinguished representatives from various institutions and universities who are currently leading the field of microbiome research.

Dr Montague’s award-winning project aims to examine how varying degrees of social interaction impact the gut microbiome in rhesus monkeys. It will also explore how the diversity of gut microbial communities influences levels of peripheral and central serotonin.

Dr Montague will first measure female social behaviour, followed by shotgun sequencing of gut microbiomes from faecal samples and serotonin collection from whole blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Socially integrated females who interact more frequently in pairwise grooming are expected to possess more diverse gut microbiomes and lower serotonin levels.

The ramifications of serotonin in modulating behaviours such as mood, arousal and pain signal its importance to not only the brain-gut-microbiome axis but also for understanding various human disorders, including autism, depression and anxiety, that arise from defective signalling or abnormal metabolism of serotonin.

As main sponsor of the award, QIAGEN has donated prizes of up to US$65,000 in value to Dr Montague. He will receive a research package consisting of a two-year licence to Microbial Genomics Pro Suite; analysis of 250 samples using the Cosmos ID Genomics Platform; NGS library prep of 96 samples using any NGS library prep kit or US$3000 in NGS library prep services; sample prep of 400 samples using any DNA or RNA isolation kit or US$3000 in sample prep services; and a QIAcube instrument.

Applications for next year’s Microbiome Awards will open in May. The 2018 awards will include a new category for students in the process of completing their PhD.

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