SEP 02, 2015 09:00 AM PDT

Keynote: Immunology and the Microbiome

Presented At Microbiology
  • Environmental Microbiologist, Department of Biosciences, Argonne National Laboratory - Associate Professor, University of Chicago Departments of Ecology&Evolution and Surgery - Senior Scient
      Dr. Jack A Gilbert earned his Ph.D. from Nottingham University, UK in 2002, and received his postdoctoral training in Canada at Queens University. He subsequently returned to the UK in 2005 and worked for Plymouth Marine Laboratory as a senior scientist until his move to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Dr. Gilbert is currently applying next-generation sequencing technologies to microbial metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than peer reviewed 120 publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology ( He has focused on analyzing microbial function and diversity, community assembly processes, and dynamic interactions between taxa, with an aim of predicting the metabolic output from a community. He is currently working on generating observational and mechanistic models of microbial communities in natural, urban, built and human ecosystems. He is on the board of the Genomic Standards Consortium (, is an section editor for PLoS ONE and senior editor for the ISME Journal and Environmental Microbiology, and is PI for the Earth Microbiome Project (, Home Microbiome Project (, Gulf Microbial Modeling Project (, Hospital Microbiome Project (, and the Chicago River Microbiome Project.


    The human race, like all macrobiological life, evolved in a sea of microbes. There was no way to keep the bacterial and archaeal hoards at bay, so instead life evolved mechanisms to live with these invaders. The immune system was refined over millions of years to control our interaction with the microbial world, and even to use it as a mechanism of defense, food processing, and vitamin production. The immune system and the microbiome have shaped each other in extraordinarily elaborate and intricate ways. Here we will discuss some of the recent evidence highlighting these mechanisms of interaction. We will also discuss how the last 150 years, have started to disturb the delicate balance of the immune-microbe equilibrium. As our natural ecosystem has been restricted to the built environment, especially in the developed world, where an average of 90% of our lives take place indoors, our exposure to the microbial world has been corrupted. Modern buildings are equipped with surfaces and environmental systems designed to reduce the potential for microbial life to flourish. This fundamental shift in our lifestyle is likely impacting the development and function of our immune systems in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

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