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Penn Vet, Penn Medicine, CHOP to Host 2nd Annual Microbiome Symposium; White House's Dr. Jo Handelsman Featured Speaker

By: Ashley Berke Date: Oct 2, 2015

[September 30, 2015; Philadelphia, PA] – Antibiotic resistance. Innate immunity. Pathogenic microbes. Research on the microbiome continues to pique the interest of many, as scientists explore how bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other organisms interact with their animal and human hosts in ways that either maintain health or lead to disease. These topics and more will be discussed at the upcoming Microbiome Symposium, presented by Penn Vet’s Center for Host-Microbial Interactions and the PennCHOP Microbiome Program.

HandelsmanThe two-day symposium will begin with a special public event – a discussion with Dr. Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Her talk, “The Earth's Microbiomes: Opportunities for Research and Policy,” will take place on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 6-7:30pm at Penn Vet’s Hill Pavilion (380 S. University Ave., Philadelphia). According to Dr. Handelsman, there is tremendous potential for managing microbiomes to achieve beneficial outcomes for human health, agricultural productivity, clean energy supply, environmental health, and the economy. However, she believes that a new approach to microbiome research is needed. Admission to this event is FREE, but registration is recommended at

Presentations for the scientific community will take place on Thursday, October 29, 2015, at the Biomedical Research Building (421 Curie Blvd., Philadelphia). Registration is available here.

Dr. Jo Handelsman was appointed to her position by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June of 2014. In this role, she helps to advise President Obama on the implications of science for the nation, ways in which science can inform U.S. policy, and federal efforts in support of scientific research.

Dr. Handelsman is an expert in communication among bacteria that associate with soil, plants, and insects. She helped pioneer the field of metagenomics, bridging agricultural and medical sciences. She is also recognized for her research on science education and women and minorities in science, and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring in 2011. Dr. Handelsman also co-chaired the PCAST working group that developed the 2012 report, “Engage to Excel,” which contained recommendations to the President to strengthen STEM education to meet the workforce needs of the next decade in the United States.

Prior to joining OSTP, Dr. Handelsman was the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. She received a B.S. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This event is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s ongoing efforts in support of the One Health Initiative, which is dedicated to improving the lives of all species through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental science.

About the Center for Host-Microbial Interactions

Penn Vet’s Center for Host-Microbial Interactions is designed to facilitate collaborative projects that leverage genomics to study the intersection of microbes and disease. In doing so, researchers gain insight into how bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other organisms interact with their animal and human hosts in ways that either maintain health or lead to disease. Each year, the Center invites researchers to submit proposals for funding. Additionally, the Center provides ongoing support and training for Penn Vet faculty and their labs to carry out analyses of the complex datasets generated by genomic approaches. For more information about the Center, click here.  

About the PennCHOP Microbiome Program

Each of us lives in association with vast numbers of microbes that colonize our bodies and influence our long-term health. Many trillions of microbes—too small to be seen by the naked eye--live in our guts and elsewhere on our bodies. These microbes contribute to health by helping with digestion, guiding growth of our immune systems, and shouldering out invading pathogens. Human individuals differ greatly in the composition of their microbiota, and evidence suggests that distinctive populations in each of us influence our health in unique ways. The University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have launched a Microbiome Program to take advantage of new research in this area to advance the health of children and adults. The goals of the PennCHOP Microbiome Program are to understand the human microbiome and alter its priorities to improve health.

About Penn Vet

Penn Vet is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the only veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 30,000 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 4,000 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats nearly 37,000 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.