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Published on: Aug 5, 2020

The Penn State Microbiome Center and General Automation Lab Technologies (GALT) announced their collaboration to advance plant pathology, environmental microbiology and human gut microbiome studies.

As part of this collaboration, GALT will support four research projects that will use the company’s Prospector high-throughput microbial isolation and cultivation system to generate banks of live microbial isolates.

The isolates will be used in studies to develop a more detailed understanding in critical areas of microbiome research: how the microbiome causes different individuals to digest food differently, the microbial basis of disease in a major food crop, how to improve our ability to cultivate microbes from soil, and how the soil microbiome interacts with crop plants and influences crop productivity.

“The Penn State Microbiome Center is building relationships to advance the goals of our industry collaborators and our diverse microbiome faculty,” said Carolee Bull, the center's director and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “These projects are just the tip of the iceberg for potential interactions with GALT and serve as the foundation for a meaningful partnership between their team and the Penn State Microbiome Center.”

The GALT Prospector system is an array-based platform for microbiome research and product development that enables scientists to cultivate target microbes from complex samples using a massively scalable, easy-to-use workflow.

The system improves the capability and capacity of microbiome research laboratories to screen, isolate and analyze difficult-to-culture or less abundant microbes from complex microbiome samples.

“We are pleased to partner with one of the world’s leading microbiome centers and to support the incredible work being done by Penn State faculty to expand our understanding of diverse and complex microbial communities,” said Peter Christey, co-founder and chief executive officer of GALT.

“The Prospector system is unique in its capabilities to rapidly isolate and grow thousands of microcolonies and run multiple samples in parallel,” he said. “We look forward to working with Penn State and sharing the results of our collaboration with the global research community.”

The Penn State Microbiome Center supports transformative, interdisciplinary research in microbiomes by fostering long-term working relationships while simultaneously providing infrastructure and resources needed for increasing the diversity and breadth of microbiome research and educational opportunities at Penn State.

Units involved in the center include the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Communications, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering, Health and Human Development, Information Sciences and Technology, and Medicine, and the Eberly College of Science.

Also participating are the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, the Social Science Research Institute, the Institutes of Energy and the Environment, and the Institute for CyberScience. Active members also come from the Arts Design Research Incubator and from other Penn State campuses.

GALT, a privately held company based in Silicon Valley, is a leading developer of next-generation cultivation and screening platforms for microbiome research and microbial product development, addressing high-impact markets including human health, agriculture, environmental science, and microbial products for industrial use.