Dannon® Awards $50,000 in Student Grants to Further Yogurt and Gut Microbiome Exploration

Two Graduate Students Each Receive $25,000 from Dannon's Annual Dannon® Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship Grant Program

For the seventh year in a row, Dannon®, as a part of Danone North America, has demonstrated their commitment to science and education through the Dannon® Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship Grant Program. This year’s honorees are Caroline Kelsey from the University of Virginia and Yeonwoo Lebovitz from Virginia Tech. A committee of nutrition scientists selected the two winners based on the quality of their proposals, faculty recommendations and each of their studies’ value to human health and wellness. Kelsey and Lebovitz will each receive $25,000 to help fund their unique and independent studies of yogurt, probiotics and the human gut microbiome.

“The level of innovation and originality of the proposals was unprecedented,” said Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Danone North America. “It is evident that graduate students are leading the way with cutting-edge gut microbiome inquiries. At Danone North America, we are honored to help advance the field and support the future of these high-quality researchers.”

The Dannon® Fellowship Grant was established in 2010 with the intention to provide funding for novel studies of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome. As such, Kelsey’s research will examine how gut bacteria and food intake influence brain development, and Lebovitz’s research will assess how a mother’s gut microbiome can affect and protect their baby’s neurological development. Both proposals employ contemporary methodology that will inform future investigations and enhance the understanding of how the gut influences key components of human health.

“The Dannon® grant represents valuable affirmation from the greater yogurt and probiotics field that my research focus on the intersection of maternal health, gut microbiome, and neurodevelopment is a worthy area of study with real world relevance,” said Yeonwoo Lebovitz, a doctoral candidate in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health at Virginia Tech. “I am thrilled to receive recognition from the esteemed panel of experts and to join the ranks of previous Dannon® Fellows.”

The impact of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome has exceeded expectations and has been tied to brain, digestive and immune function. Unsurprisingly, consumer interest in fermented foods and gut health has soared – and top research institutions are pioneering new ways to study various aspects of its power and potential.

“My study is the first to examine how both diet and the gut microbiome influence infant social-emotional and brain development over the first year of life,” said Caroline Kelsey, PhD candidate in Developmental Psychology at the University of Virginia. “This project also promises to inform the development of probiotics.”

“Dannon®, as a part of Danone North America, strives to nurture advances in yogurt, probiotic and gut microbiome science,” adds Dr. Freitas. “We recognize that supporting the pursuit of academic and scientific excellence will lead to meaningful advancements in the study of human health.”

About the 2017-2018 Dannon® Fellowship Grant
All applicants submitted an application that included answers to essay questions, recommendations from two faculty members, and proof of good academic standing. Students were required to be incoming or current graduate students who demonstrated an interest in exploring the gut microbiome, probiotics and/or yogurt. They were also required to be at least 18 years of age, show proof of U.S. residence, and be able to utilize the scholarship funds during 2018 at an accredited US institution.