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Your Environment. Your Health.

December 2019 Superfund Research Program Science Digest

Superfund Research Program Science Digest
Balancing Scientific Excellence with Research Relevance

Director's Letter

William Suk

Since 1988, the Superfund Research Program (SRP) has invested in pioneering work in bioremediation, which refers to the use of bacteria, fungi, and plants to reduce the amount or toxicity of hazardous substances in the environment. Now in our 33rd year, we see the impact SRP-funded bioremediation research has had on the field.

Many of these successes were highlighted in a commentary published last year on the benefits of SRP-funded research and in the SRP Risk e-Learning webinar series this fall. If you were not able to attend the webinars, I encourage you to view the archives and learn how SRP researchers remain at the forefront of bioremediation research.

As a transdisciplinary program, we strive to make connections between biomedical and environmental science and engineering to reveal insights into complex environmental problems. Linking bioremediation and human microbiome research is an example. Understanding how contaminants interact with bacteria in the environment may inform research on how contaminants in the body interact with bacteria in the gut and how that interaction could lead to health effects.

The feature story in this issue highlights some of the innovative SRP-funded work in both bioremediation and microbiome research fields. We see opportunity for bioremediation and human microbiome experts to exchange ideas and share data related to bacterial communities, contaminants, and human health. Both fields focus on how microbes interact with contaminants but from different perspectives. Bringing these perspectives together and building linkages between different disciplines may expand both fields of study and reveal unforeseen relationships between health and the environment.

We initiated efforts to leverage the diversity of SRP research and data to enhance data interoperability and advance scientific discovery. This year, we awarded administrative supplements to enhance data sharing, integration, and reuse. This initiative is well-aligned with the NIEHS and SRP strategic plans, which both stress the importance of data sharing to maximize research dollars and to accelerate translation of data to knowledge to action.

This year, we also contributed to the Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR) initiative, which provides NIH-funded researchers access to centralized, high-quality exposure assessment services. We funded two Network of Exposure Analysis Laboratories focused on untargeted analysis. To link exposures to human health outcomes, we are supporting a lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where SRP researchers can send biological samples to be comprehensively assessed using discovery-driven approaches, such as metabolomics. We are also supporting a lab at Duke University that provides SRP researchers with resources to comprehensively measure exposures in media such as water and soil that were collected from a human health study with the goal of linking health outcomes to their environmental sources. SRP grantees are eligible to use this resource for untargeted analysis. Because the data gained from this resource will be made publicly available, it is poised to promote data sharing and re-use.

Kind regards,

William A. Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Director
Superfund Research Program