New host-microbe institute connects campus researchers

By: Krishna Ramanujan,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 01/18/2017

The university has launched the Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID), an umbrella organization that brings together the wide-ranging community of Cornell researchers studying host-microbe biology and disease.

“The scope of the institute is host-microbe interactions ranging from beneficial to pathogenic in plant and animal hosts,” said Brian Lazzaro, the institute’s director and professor of entomology and of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The institute will provide a hub for researchers distributed across campus, and will initially include faculty from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering and Human Ecology. It will likely expand to Weill Cornell Medicine in New York in the future.

Research areas cover beneficial and pathogenic interactions between hosts (plants and animals) and microbes (bacteria, viruses and fungi), including veterinary immunology, clinical research, agriculture, natural systems and basic research.

“We have a lot of people doing this kind of work at Cornell,” Lazzaro said. “By nature of the distribution [of researchers across campus] it means we can have more people working in these different areas without overloading a particular unit. But it also means people can be dispersed, and that’s not always optimal for interdisciplinary collaboration and communication.”

To start, the institute will offer:

  • a postdoctoral fellows program with two-year appointments, where postdoc researchers will be encouraged to bridge disciplines and groups;
  • a seminar series that will fund and invite high-profile speakers to campus;
  • undergraduate research internships;
  • facilitation and support for applying for large center grants, training grants and multiple-principal investigator grants among CIHMID faculty;
  • an annual research symposium; and

The institute will take advantage of existing graduate curricula, and will be affiliated with the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Master of Public Health program and the new Cornell-led Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases in the Department of Entomology.

The CIHMID is funded by CALS, the Office of the Provost, and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.

This story first appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.