More than 100 trillion microorganisms live in our gut, mouth, skin and other mucosal surfaces of our bodies. These organisms represent more than 1 million genes, as compared to the approximately 25,000 human genes. These microbes have numerous beneficial functions relevant to supporting life such as digesting food, preventing disease-causing pathogens from invading the body, and synthesizing essential nutrients and vitamins. The microbiome is involved in regulation of the immune system, central nervous system, and circulatory system, to name a few. With the advancement of genomic and computational technologies, the capacity of this second genome to influence health and disease can now be harnessed.
More than 30,000 published research articles make clear that the human microbiome is a fundamental component of human physiology, with an estimated one-third of circulating metabolites being a product of the gut microbiota. Changes in the microbiome can trigger changes in human cellular activities, resulting in disease or contribute to its progression. The ability to understand these mechanisms and disease processes is central to the Second Genome drug discovery program. By gaining deep knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that govern the dynamic interplay between microbial communities and host system, we can unlock meaningful insights into the pathogenesis of disease, enabling rational strategies for therapeutic intervention.