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. 


If you do not wish to participate in TMI, but still want to support research that may someday lead to critical advancements in health and medicine, consider making a tax-deductible donation directly to the Knight Lab at UC San Diego. With the help of sponsors like you, we can:

  • Engage thousands of citizen scientists on a global scale to further scientific knowledge of the human microbiome, including the study of dietary, environmental, hereditary, and cultural impacts on human health.
  • Recruit and sustain a leading team of scientists and staff.
  • Maintain laboratories and equipment that are vital to our mission.
  • Collaborate with other leading scientific organizations around the world.
  • Produce and validate scientific data that has the power to create breakthroughs.
  • Research the microbiomes of specific cohorts to understand why some groups suffer from underlying health conditions more often than others.