Danone North America Awards $ 50,000 to Students Advancing the Exploration of the Gut Microbiome

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Danone North America is proud to recognize the achievements and potential of two outstanding graduate students from the University of California Davis and the University of Chicago. With a $25,000 scholarship per student, this year’s recipients will lead investigations that expand the study of probiotics and gut bacteria. Both of the selected proposals intend to explore the characteristics and factors that affect how gut health and the microbiome can be improved and sustained. 

“Since launching the program, the Danone North America fellowship grant has drawn dozens of high-performing students from top universities in the U.S.,” explains Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Danone North America. “The winners for 2018-2019 have developed innovative proposals that will not only further the field, but help pinpoint mechanisms that affect the ability of beneficial microbes to improve gut health and the microbiome.”  

Explained as trillions of micro-organisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract – the gut microbiota have been linked to many key determinants of human health including immune, metabolic and neurobehavioral traits. While there are aspects of the gut microbiome (the community of these micro-organisms) that are inherited, several outside variables like foods and drugs appear to direct how health is affected.This year’s fellows intend to further this awareness. Megan Kennedy from the Medical Scientist Training Program at University of Chicago will take a closer look at whether or not there is a particular time in a person’s 24-hour cycle (AKA circadian rhythm) when probiotics are best able to remain in the gut community, and if individuals may modify their own circadian rhythms to maximize the benefit from probiotics. Meanwhile, a doctoral student in the microbiology group at the University of California Davis, Nick Jensen, will study how related types of beneficial bacteria break down different carbohydrates in the foods we eat, specifically  milk oligosaccharides. The goal is to determine how to feed the good bacteria and keep them thriving.

“While there is much to learn before precise engineering of the microbiome shifts from aspirational goal to clinical reality, probiotics constitute one of the most promising early avenues of applied microbiome engineering,” explains Ms. Kennedy. “With this grant, I will have the funding to conduct scientifically rigorous experiments that link my professional interest in clinical and translational science with my academic appreciation for the complexity of microbial ecology.” 

Danone North America made a commitment to use business as a force for good, balancing financial results with the social and environmental benefits for people, communities and the planet. 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. This seven-year strong fellowship grant is an example of how their commitment has been brought to life. 

About Danone North America
Headquartered in White Plains, New York, and Broomfield, Colorado, the mission of Danone North America is to bring health through food to as many people as possible via its diverse offering of dairy and plant-based foods in high growth and evolving categories. The ambition of Danone North America is to produce healthful foods that create economic and social value and nurture natural ecosystems through sustainable agriculture. Every time we eat and drink, we vote for the world we want. And as the largest public benefit corporation in the US, Danone North America is taking bold steps for social good in the U.S.. Danone North America is a subsidiary of Danone and more information is available at www.DanoneNorthAmerica.com.