Moving forward with a goal to improve city utilization and planning through the detection, measurement, and design of metagenomics within urban environments.


The Metagenomics and Metadesign of the Subways and Urban Biomes (MetaSUB) International consortium is a novel, interdisciplinary initiative made up of experts across many fields, including genomics, data analysis, engineering, public health, and design.

Just as there is a standard and measurement of temperature, air pressure, wind currents– all of which are considered in the design of the built environment– the microbial ecosystem is just as dynamic and just as integral and should be integrated into the design of cities. By developing and testing standards for the field and optimizing methods for urban sample collection, DNA/RNA isolation, taxa characterization, and data visualization, the MetaSUB consortium is pioneering an unprecedented study of urban mass-transit systems and cities around the world.

These data will benefit city planners, public health officials, and designers, as well as discovery new species, biological systems, and biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs), thus enabling an era of more quantified, responsive, and “smarter cities.”



In 2013, a project was launched called PathoMap. The primary goal was to study the microbiome of an urban, metropolitan environment, which was New York City, USA.

The idea for PathoMap began in 2010 when Dr. Christopher Mason, the project’s principal investigator, there picked up his young daughter from daycare. She was playing with all the toys, putting them in her mouth, and then her friends would come and put the toys in their mouths. This launched Dr. Mason’s question, “What is on those toys, and the surfaces in this environment, and all the other environments, and how much is my daughter absorbing every day?”  In the Summer of 2013, 468 NYC subway stations were sampled. Interestingly, nearly half (48%) the DNA matched no known organism.

The success of the project led to the creation of the Metagenomics and Metadesign of Subways and Urban Biomes (MetaSUB) International Consortium in 2015.


"Every time I look around a room or a subway station, I always wonder — what's there?"

-Dr. Christopher Mason, Co-founder of MetaSUB

Inauguration of the MetaSUB International Consortium

MetaSUB was founded in 2015 by Dr. Christopher Mason an Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and Evan Afshin, a medical student at New York Medical College and a Medical Student Research Fellow in the Mason Lab at Weill Cornell Medicine. The consortium officially launched with Global City Sampling Day on June 21st, 2016.

Global City Sampling Day in 2016 marked the first annual event of simultaneous sampling around the world. Spanning six continents, 32 countries and 54 cities, the event collected more than 6,000 samples of DNA, RNA and microbes from surfaces in subways, buses, airports and other well-traveled public meeting spaces.

Since then, MetaSUB has expanded into several projects across many different fields. Sampling has been done on not only subways, but of monuments, sewers, beaches, air and medical environments and in over a hundred cities around the world.

Key aims of MetaSUB

  1. To create geospatial metagenomic and forensic genetic maps

  2. Identify and track antimicrobial resistance markers (AMRs) in the urban built environment

  3. Identify novel biosynthetic gene clusters (BCGs) for drug discovery


Christopher Mason, PhD
Co-Founder, Principal Investigator
2015 - Present
Evan Afshin, MD
Co-Founder, Clinical Director
2015 - Present


Krista Ryon
Executive Director
2021 - Present
Braden Tierney, PhD
Director of Bioinformatics
2022 - Present


Benjamin Young
Executive Director
2019 - 2021
Sofia Ahsanuddin
Executive Director
2016 - 2017
Daniela Bezdan
Executive Director
2017 - 2019
David Danko, PhD
Director of Bioinformatics
2016 - 2022

List of cities represented in the consortium :


Baltimore, United States

Boston, United States

Boulder, United States

Chicago, United States

Denver, United States

Fairbanks, United States

Georgia, United States

Honolulu, United States

Los Angeles, United States

Mexico City, Mexico

New York City, United States

Nuuk, Greenland

Sacramento, United States

San Francisco, United States

Seattle, United States

Siorapaluk, Greenland

St. Louis, United States

Vancouver, Canada

Washington D.C., United States


Barcelona, Spain

Berlin, Germany

Copenhagen, Denmark

Dusseldorf, Germany

Hamburg, Germany

Kyiv, Ukraine

Lisbon, Portugal

London, UK

Marseille, France

Moscow, Russia

Naples, Italy

Novosibirsk, Russia

Oslo, Norway

Paris, France

Porto, Portugal

Rome, Italy

Sheffield, UK

Sofia, Bulgaria

Stockholm, Sweden

Tartu, Estonia

Trenton, Italy

Vienna, Austria

Zagreb, Croatia

Zurich, Switzerland

Bogota, Colombia

Bucaramanga, Colombia

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cochabamba, Bolivia

Lima, Peru

Montevideo, Uruguay

Ribeiro Preto, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Santiago, Chile

Sao Paulo, Brazil


Cairo, Egypt

Kinshasa, DRC

Ilorin, Nigeria

Johannesburg, South Africa

Offa, Nigeria

Tunis, Tunisia


Brisbane, Australia

Melbourne, Australia

Sydney, Australia



Palmer Station, Antarctica

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctica
South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Bangkok, Thailand

Beijing, China

Bhopal, India

Doha, Qatar

Fukuoka, Japan

Fujisawa, Japan

Fukuroi, Japan

Guangzhou, China

Hanoi, Vietnam

Hammatsu, Japan

Hong Kong, China

Hyderabad, India

Ibaraki, Japan

Istanbul, Turkey

Izmir, Turkey

Kolkata, India

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kyoto, Japan

Matsudo, Japan

Matsue, Japan

Mie, Japan

Miyazaki, Japan

Nankoku, Japan

New Delhi, India

Niigata, Japan

Noda, Japan

Obama, Japan

Oita, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

Sapporo, Japan

Sendai, Japan

Seoul, South Korea

Shanghai, China

Shizuoka, Japan

Singapore, Singapore

Taipei, Taiwan

Tainan, Taiwan

Tehran, Iran

Thessalonica, Greece

Tokyo, Japan

Tsuruoka, Japan

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Urayasu, Japan

Yamaguchi, Japan