Project Overview

The Microsetta Initiative (TMI) is a highly collaborative microbiome research study based out of the Knight Lab and the Center for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) at UC San Diego. The origins of this initiative started with the American Gut (2012) and the British Gut Projects (2014), localized efforts aimed at collecting microbiome data provided by participants in the US and the UK, respectively. 


TMI became the next natural step in providing a framework for international expansion efforts to support a wider geographic reach. The ‘Microsetta’ name is intended to reflect a conceptual relationship to the Rosetta Stone, which in the 19th century helped scholars decipher the code of hieroglyphics. Along the same lines, TMI’s output will expand the availability of population-specific microbiome references so researchers can begin to ask how microbiome results from one population translate to another.

The study has adopted techniques from the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), which seeks to standardize technical practices and utilize modern molecular methodologies to characterize the vast diversity of microbial life found on this planet. The critical difference to the EMP approach is that TMI focuses mostly on the human microbiome. Thus, personally identifiable components of the data produced are removed to eliminate any directly identifying information of the participants and placed into the public domain for anyone to reuse. This way, scientists worldwide can contribute to understanding how health and lifestyle factors associated with the microbiome translate between populations.