Microbial diversity is threatened

The problem

Microbial diversity is threatened

Microbial diversity is globally threatened by urbanization and environmental change proceeding at an unprecedented pace (1, 2). In analogy to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the Microbiota Vault initiative sets out to preserve the biodiversity of human-associated microbiota, while still possible, by constructing an institution for the safe storage and preservation of microbiota samples and collections. The Microbiota Vault will closely interact with local working collections all over the world.

Get to know the vision behind the Microbiota Vault

The solution

A global ecosystem to preserve microbial diversity

Seerave Foundation is actively involved in supporting a vision to establish “The Microbiota Vault”. The Microbiota Vault, a non-profit US foundation, is examining the potential of setting up a global repository of human microbiota. This repository, a “Noah’s Ark for microbes” would focus on the preservation of the current global diversity of the human microbiota and on backing-up global research collections. A feasibility study coordinated and led by experienced and independent professionals from two Swiss science evaluation agencies “advocacy” and “EvalueScience” was published in spring 2020 (download the study here). The study explored the technical, political and legal scenarios that would make the project feasible and was co-supported by the Gebert Rüf Foundation, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Rutgers University and Kiel University.

Based on the initial feasibility study, The Microbiota Vault initiative has decided to initiate the operational phase of the project in Switzerland and has designed a program for a two-year launch phase with the following objectives:

  1. Proof-of-principle during the launch phase, including installation of the biobanking infrastructure in Switzerland, initiating collaboration projects for sample collection with local working collections, shipping of such samples from the local working collections to the biobanking infrastructure.
  2. Establishment of the management capabilities to build the organization and international network, to
    develop the required legal frameworks, and to drive the development at the political level.
    For the execution of the launch phase, the Microbiota Vault initiative collaborates with a science team from
    the University Hospital Basel, the University of Basel, University of Lausanne, ETH Zurich, and Rutgers

The progress

Achieved milestones



First Latin American Symposium of the global microbiome network (GloMiNe)



The Microbiota Vault Inc. was founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation



Seerave becomes part of the Pioneer Team

Theoretical feasibility
Launch Phase
Growth Phase
The Microbiota Vault
is currently at this stage

The team

The Pioneers behind the Microbiota Vault

Martin Blaser

Board Member, Professor

Martin J. Blaser holds the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as well as Director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University. A physician and microbiologist, his research has centered on the relationship of humans and bacteria, both as foes and friends. He has served as the Chair of Medicine at NYU, as President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and now as Chair of PACCARB (Presidential Advisory Council for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria). His award-winning book for general audiences about our changing microbiota, Missing Microbes, has been translated into 20 languages.

Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello

President of the Board, Professor

Dr. Dominguez-Bello focuses on the microbiome development from birth, functions for the host, impact by practices that reduce microbial transmission or disrupt the microbiota, and strategies for restoration. She also studies how Westernization changes environmental microbes and human exposures, integrating the fields of anthropology and architecture/urban studies into microbial ecology.

Dominik Steiger

Managing Director

Dominik Steiger is Chief Executive Officer at EvalueScience Ltd, an independent company specialized in expert-based consulting and research in the fields of biomedicine, health, and digital health. He is coauthor of the Microbiota Vault Feasibility Study and coordinates the launch of the initiative. Dr. Steiger has done research on the molecular genetics of growth control and of metal homeostasis. He holds a PHD in natural sciences from the University of Zurich.