Danone North America Awards Grants to Researchers on the Forefront of Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics Health Outcomes

Two graduate students are each awarded a $25,000 grant from annual program

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Danone North America, one of the largest purpose-driven food and beverage companies, is proud to announce it has selected the 2023-2024 recipients of the Annual Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotic Fellowship Program. This year, Evan Chrisler of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arushana Maknojia of Baylor College of Medicine have been awarded $25,000 each to conduct research to help further the understanding of the gut microbiome, yogurt and probiotics. The 2023-2024 program marks twelve years and over half a million dollars’ worth of grants awarded to empower creative research and further scientific advances in the microbiome space.

The impact of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome can be linked to several health benefits including those relating to brain, digestive and immune function. Consumer interest in improving gut and immune health through probiotic-rich foods has soared, as consumers continue to seek out products that are tailored to help improve specific health and wellness issues. “Danone North America strives to meet the evolving needs of consumers by pioneering research to unlock the health benefits of yogurt. The fellowship grant helps propel this important research,” says Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Health and Scientific Affairs at Danone North America. “Both Arushana Maknojia and Evan Chrisler are poised to conduct successful studies and have impactful careers that will help inform meaningful scientific discoveries and expand our understanding of probiotics, the gut microbiome, and human health.”

Recipient Evan Chrisler’s research will examine the effects of timing of ingestion and type of probiotic on metabolism and immunity. The study will explore how specific Lactobacillaceae community members induce diurnal regenerating islet-derived 3 gamma (REG3y) expression and how analogous Lactobacillaceae species leverage resistance toward diurnal host defense peptide to maintain a niche within the gastrointestinal community.  “Being awarded the 2023-2024 Danone fellowship grant is an unforgettable milestone in my academic career, for which I am grateful and honored,” says Chrisler. “With the support of this grant, I am excited to unravel these intricate circadian host-microbe interactions and their influence on the gut microbiome to further probiotic development and host health.”

The prolonged use of antibiotics can impair normal blood cell production by depleting the gut microbiome. Arushana Maknojia’s research will examine the mechanisms by which inflammatory signals from commensal microbes regulate the steady-state hematopoiesis, the blood cell production process. The aim is to define the specific commensal species and their metabolites that support production and function of immune cells via hematopoietic cytokines and growth factor secretion. “The role of the gut microbiota in normal blood production and function is poorly understood,” explains Maknojia. “I am excited to fill this critical gap by delineating the mechanism by which intestinal commensals communicate with the bone marrow to promote hematopoiesis. I am so enthusiastic about my research as it constitutes the necessary next steps towards the development of next-generation pre- and probiotics and metabolite supplements that can support gut and blood/immune health. I truly believe that with the support from Danone North America for my PhD work, we will be impacting lives of many people, not only with hematological complications, but also those with inflammatory/metabolic diseases due to intestinal microbiota dysbiosis.”

“The study of probiotics and our knowledge of the microbiome is changing rapidly, and it is our hope that the projects funded this year will continue to inform our understanding of this field,” adds Dr. Freitas. “The impact of the microbiome on human health has wide-ranging benefits to our digestive and immune system as well as playing a key role in our mind-body connection, which is why investments to better understand this unique ecosystem are much needed.”

Established in 2010, the Danone Fellowship Grant provides funding for novel studies of yogurt, probiotics, and the gut microbiome. A panel of judges with expertise in the field choose winners based on the quality of their proposals, faculty recommendations, and each of their studies’ value to human health and wellness. As a public benefit corporation (PBC) and one of the largest B Corps in the world, Danone North America is committed to use business as a force for good, balancing financial interests with social and environmental benefits for people, communities and the planet. In 2022, Danone North America committed to invest $4 million by 2030, in collaboration with the White House Conference on Hunger and Nutrition to enhance nutrition and food security research. The 2023-2024 Fellowship Grants for Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotic studies are a part of this commitment.

About Danone North America 
Danone North America is a purpose-driven company and an industry leader in the food and beverage category. As a Certified B Corporation®, Danone North America is committed to the creation of both economic and social value, while nurturing natural ecosystems through regenerative agriculture. Our strong portfolio of brands includes: Activia®, DanActive®, Danimals®, Dannon®, evian®, Happy Family® Organics, International Delight®, Light + Fit®, Oikos®, Silk®, So Delicious® Dairy Free, STōK®, Two Good®, and YoCrunch®. With more than 6,000 employees and 16 production locations across the U.S. and Canada, Danone North America’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible. For more information on Danone North America’s B Corp™ status visit: https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/find-a-b-corp/company/danone-north-america/.  

About the 2023-2024 Danone Fellowship Grant The Danone Fellowship Grant is awarded to incoming or current graduate students who have demonstrated an interest in exploring the gut microbiome, probiotics and/or yogurt to better understand how they help support and maintain human health and wellness. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, show proof of U.S. residence, and be able to utilize the scholarship funds during 2024 at an accredited U.S. institution. Interested applicants will be required to submit an application that includes answers to essay questions, recommendations from faculty members, and proof of good academic standing. The application and full scholarship details are available here.