QIAGEN (NYSE: QGEN; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) today announced a first-in-kind collaboration with Penn State University in the United States to create a shared research and education facility for the fast-developing microbiome sciences.

The university-industry partnership will serve as a beacon for this field by investigating research opportunities that address challenges and research gaps facing the microbiome, which involves the research into a community of microorganisms that can be found living together in any given environment, including the human body.

In doing so, this new partnership will provide QIAGEN with a site to support the development of new products as a testing center. It is also designed to provide vital industry research and training opportunities for next-generation scientists. This includes an internship program for graduate students from Penn State at QIAGEN laboratories at the European operational headquarters in Hilden, Germany, and helps them prepare for careers in the biotechnology industry.

“This new partnership with Penn State, one of the leading academic research institutions in the field of microbiome research, is anchored by a shared vision for an interconnection between the health of humans, animals and ecosystems. It will help shape research, education and outreach in the young field of the microbiome sciences, and hopefully accelerate the careers of a new generation of scientists interested in this field,” said Nitin Sood, Senior Vice President and Head of the Life Sciences Business Area at QIAGEN. “Additionally, it will foster relationships with the microbiome research community and enable us to better develop new products for microbiome research based on direct customer feedback.”

Seth Bordenstein, Director of the One Health Microbiome Center, Professor of Biology and Entomology, and Huck Endowed Chair in the Microbiome Sciences, at Penn State said: “The ‘One Health’ vision shared by QIAGEN and Penn State University is critical for microbiome research. We are pleased to partner with the leading provider of microbiome solutions to equip researchers with the tools to explore how microorganisms flow through humans, animals, plants and the environment, impacting the health of all these ecosystems. With this multi-year partnership, we will bridge the gap between industry and academia and shape the future of microbiome research.”

Among the various projects in this partnership, the team will support the worldwide science education program “Discover the Microbes Within! The Wolbachia Project”. This program enables students at the middle and high school levels, as well as those in college, to learn about arthropods (animals without backbones that have an outer skeleton made of chitin, segmented bodies and legs with joints, including insects, spiders, mites and crustaceans) and collect scientific data about the bacterial endosymbiont (an organism living inside another one for the benefit of both) Wolbachia pipientis.

This bacterium is estimated to be found in approximately 50% of the world’s arthropods and has been shown, for example, to block the reproduction of potentially fatal RNA viruses such as Dengue, West Nile and Zika virus[1]. Additionally, it is used to reduce the transmission of these and other viruses spread by the bite of infected arthropods (arboviruses)[2]. Due to these real-world impacts, Wolbachia is often used as a model organism to investigate animal-microbe interactions, genetics, evolution, ecology and human health.

Microbiome research aims to explore the relationships between microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, and their hosts. It can help to better understand the microbiome’s impact on health, diseases and ecological processes in order to develop novel diagnostic solutions and therapeutic strategies.

The flagship project at the One Health Microbiome Center (OHMC) at Penn State’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences will see QIAGEN provide instruments and kits for preparing and processing microbial samples.

Penn State is among the top 30 public research universities in the U.S., with more than $1.2 billion in annual research expenditures. With over 500 members, including 125 faculty from various Penn State campuses and more than 42 departments, OHMC is one of the largest organizations of its type in microbiome research.

QIAGEN’s comprehensive microbiome portfolio encompasses tools for every aspect of the scientific workflow, including reliable sample preparation kits optimized for investigating challenging samples from environmental and human microbiomes. To ensure reproducibility, QIAGEN offers sample preparation automation for standardization and reliability. The extensive range of microbiome solutions also includes downstream processing technologies such as NGS, digital PCR (dPCR), or quantitative PCR (qPCR), all complemented by robust bioinformatics tools for seamless digital analysis.