This is the age of microbial technology: Crucial roles of learned societies and academies

Kenneth Timmis*, John E. Hallsworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

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Microbial technologies constitute a huge and unique potential for confronting major humanitarian and biosphere challenges, especially in the realms of sustainability and providing basic goods and services where they are needed and particularly in low‐resource settings. These technologies are evolving rapidly. Powerful approaches are being developed to create novel products, processes, and circular economies, including new prophylactics and therapies in healthcare, bioelectric systems, and whole‐cell understanding of metabolism that provides novel insights into mechanisms and how they can be utilised for applications. The modulation of microbiomes promises to create important applications and mitigate problems in a number of spheres. Collectively, microbial technologies save millions of lives each year and have the potential, through increased deployment, to save many more. They help restore environmental health, improve soil fertility, enable regenerative agriculture, reduce biodiversity losses, reduce pollution, and mitigate polluted environments. Many microbial technologies may be considered to be ‘healing’ technologies – healing of humans, of other members of the biosphere, and of the environment. This is the Age of Microbial Technology. However, the current exploitation of microbial technologies in the service of humanity and planetary health is woefully inadequate and this failing unnecessarily costs many lives and biosphere deterioration. Microbiologists – the practitioners of these healing technologies – have a special, preordained responsibility to promote and increase their deployment for the good of humanity and the planet. To do this effectively – to actually make a difference – microbiologists will need to partner with key enablers and gatekeepers, players such as other scientists with essential complementary skills like bioengineering and bioinformatics, politicians, financiers, and captains of industry, international organisations, and the general public. Orchestration and coordination of the establishment and functioning of effective partnerships will best be accomplished by learned societies, their academies, and the international umbrella organisations of learned societies. Effective dedication of players to the tasks at hand will require unstinting support from employers, particularly the heads of institutes of higher education and of research establishments. Humanity and the biosphere are currently facing challenges to their survival not experienced for millennia. Effectively confronting these challenges is existential, and microbiologists and their learned societies have pivotal roles to play: they must step up and act now.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14450
JournalMicrobial Biotechnology
Issue number5
Early online date29 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2024


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