Danone North America Announces 2018-2019 Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship Grant

For the 7th year, $50,000 will be granted to graduate students exploring the critical role of the gut microbiome in human health.

Danone North America announces it is awarding two graduate students $25,000 each for the 7th year in a row. As the name indicates, the grant is designed for graduate students to study the role of the gut microbiome, yogurt and probiotics for human health. Scientists in the field have found that the microbial community, or microbiome of the gut affects not only gastrointestinal health, but has links to the brain, immune system and even our circadian clocks.1 The fitness of the gut microbiome has also been associated with chronic disease risk, such as for cardiovascular disease or certain cancers.

“Danone North America recognizes that scientists have made great strides in identifying the role and importance of the human gut microbiome. They have also found that the food we eat can have an immediate and dramatic impact on the makeup of our microbiome”,

says Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Danone North America.

“As a top food company in the U.S., with a portfolio of fresh dairy, organic dairy, plant-based, fresh foods and beverages, we see it as part of our purpose to help support these advancements. Grants for graduate studies are vital investments in the future of human health research.”

The interest in microbiomes has exploded since the launch of Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Human Microbiome Project by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2007. While there is a better understanding of what a “normal” human microbiome looks like, how its controlled or how it can be changed hasn’t been elucidated. When it comes to the gut microbiome, there is a focus on how pre- or pro-biotics aid in treatment and prevention of disease, or enhance resilience or performance. Recipients of the Danone North America Fellowship Grant will support these efforts by exploring how the gut microbiome, yogurt and probiotics help sustain human health and wellness through growth, development and longevity.

Danone North America’s promise is to nourish lives and sustain a healthier world through food,” says Dr. Freitas. “To meet our goals, we believe it’s imperative to support creative, scientific minds with a shared commitment to enhancing human health. With each grant, we make meaningful progress in fulfilling our purpose.”

Danone North America made a commitment to use business as a force for good, balancing financial interests with the social and environmental benefits for people, communities and the planet. As a public benefit corporation (PBC), it declared becoming a Certified B Corp by 2020 a top priority. Ahead of schedule, they did so in April 2018, making them the largest PBC and B Corp in the world. Among their achievements, the Danone North America Fellowship Grant has enabled up-and-coming scientists to make strides in the interdisciplinary fields of biology, health sciences, nutrition, yogurt and probiotics.

About the 2018-2019 Danone Fellowship Grant
The program is currently accepting applications until February 15, 2019. To qualify, individuals must be incoming or current graduate students who have demonstrated an interest in exploring the gut microbiome, probiotics, dairy and/or plant-based foods. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, show proof of U.S. residence, and be able to utilize the scholarship funds during 2019 at an accredited U.S. institution. All applicants will be required to submit an application that includes answers to essay questions, recommendations from two faculty members, and proof of good academic standing. The application and full scholarship details are available here.

The recipients to-date:

2017 Winner (one of two grants awarded): Caroline Kelsey of the University of Virginia will use her grant funds to examine how gut bacteria and food intake influence brain development.

2017 Winner (one of two grants awarded): Yeonwoo Lebovitz of Virginia Tech will use the grant to assess how a mother’s gut microbiome can affect and protect their baby’s neurological development.

2016 Winner (one of two grants awarded): Erin Davis of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was granted funds for her study of probiotic yogurt consumption during breastfeeding on the immune and microbial composition of the milk, as well as on maternal and infant gut microbiota.

2016 Winner (one of two grants awarded): Haley Chatelaine of The Ohio State University earned the grant to advance the field by using cutting-edge analyses to identify the chemical signature of probiotic yogurt.

2015 Winner: Micah Eimerbrink, Experimental Psychology doctoral candidate at Texas Christian University focusing on Behavioral Neuroscience. He used the funds to collaborate with Dr. Jonathan Oliver’s Kinesiology lab to investigate the use of probiotics to reduce the psychological and physiological indicators of stress in military personnel.

2014 Winner: Amanda Ford, University of Florida, used the grant to investigate the effects of protein fermentation on the human microbiota and on different measures of digestive health both with and without probiotic consumption. Ford is now conducting a clinical research study to investigate these effects in older adults given a higher protein diet.

2013 Winner: Kurt Selle, North Carolina State University Functional Genomics doctoral candidate within the Food Science, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science Department. He used the funds to develop technology for studying the adaptation of fermentative microbes to milk, publishing his findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and presenting the results at the 11th International Symposium on Lactic Acid Bacteria as an invited speaker. Since receiving the award, to date, Selle has presented research at four international conferences and published eight research articles.

2012 Winner: Nicholas Bokulich, doctoral candidate with the Dr. David Mills Research Group at University of California, Davis. He applied the funds towards researching the use of foods as a delivery vector for beneficial bacteria in the human diet. This work led to several publications investigating the microbiome, food production and human health. Nicholas is currently a postdoctoral fellow at New York University Langone Medical Center.

1. Human Microbiome Project, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) https://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/public.
Source: Danone North America