We are on the precipice of entering a post-antibiotic era, when a scraped knee or common infection may prove deadly for an otherwise healthy individual. Existing antibiotics are losing efficacy due to widespread antibiotic resistance. Although the United Nations calls this "the greatest and most urgent global risk," pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from developing new antibiotics in favor of more lucrative ventures. Formulated at Yale University, the Small World Initiative™ (SWI) is addressing this worldwide health threat through innovative and inspiring science curriculum. SWI centers around an introductory biology course in which students perform hands-on field and laboratory research on soil samples in the hunt for new antibiotics. This is particularly relevant as over two thirds of antibiotics come from soil bacteria or fungi.
Since its inception, SWI has grown rapidly to include more than 250 participating schools across 38 US states, Puerto Rico, and 14 countries. Read our latest press release from SWI President and Executive Director Erika Kurt on how students from around the world are joining forces to tackle the antibiotic crisis through SWI's novel crowdsourcing approach. If you are interested in sponsoring our important work, please Contact Us.
The Small World Initiative (SWI) strives to combine technology, science, and innovation to make meaningful and measurable improvements in the global education and healthcare landscape.
The mission of the program is twofold.
First, it seeks to encourage students to pursue careers in science and increase scientific literacy through real-world applicable laboratory and field research in introductory courses.
Second, it aims to address a worldwide health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics – by tapping into the collective power of many student researchers concurrently tackling the same challenge, living up to its motto “crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery.”
If you are interested in bringing the Small World Initiative to your institution, please check out our resources for prospective instructors and consider submitting an application (available here under "Apply to Teach SWI"). The latest edition of the Small World Initiative's course materials (Small World Initiative: A Research Guide to Microbial and Chemical Diversity and Small World Initiative: Research Protocols) may be ordered from XanEdu here. Should you have any other questions, please Contact Us.