Danone North America Celebrates a Decade of Commitment to Exploring Impact of Gut Microbiome on Human Health

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Danone North America continues to show its commitment to furthering research, science, and education in the field of the Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotics through their Fellowship Grant Program. The 2021-2022 program marks ten years and half a million dollars’ worth of grants awarded to empower creative minds and nurture scientific advances. This year’s esteemed honorees, selected by a committee of scientific experts, are Elena Kozlova at University of California, Riverside and Yannis Ntekas at Cornell University.

“Danone North America has an unwavering commitment to funding research that helps us better understand how to maintain and improve health. It is our mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible and our fellowship grants help us do just that,” said Miguel Freitas, PhD, Vice President of Health and Scientific Affairs at Danone North America. “We’re proud we have been able to fund valuable research and support the growth and expertise of new researchers over the past 10 years and look forward to continuing to do so. Both Elena Kozlova and Yannis Ntekas are poised to conduct successful studies and have impactful careers that will contribute to scientific discoveries and expand our understanding of probiotics, the gut microbiome, and human health.”

The Danone Fellowship Grant was established in 2010 with the intention of providing funding for novel studies of yogurt, probiotics, and the gut microbiome. As such, Ntekas’s research will implement a novel RNA sequencing technology to study how probiotics colonize in the gut and how specific strains affect human health and wellbeing, while Kozlova will study how the maternal gut microbiome impacts the social behavior of their offspring. Winners were chosen based on the quality of their proposals, faculty recommendations, and each of their studies’ value to human health and wellness.

“The Danone fellowship grant will provide the financial support to move forward on my academic journey and holistically explore a problem that matters,” says Ntekas. “Our research will leverage single-cell RNA sequencing technologies to effectively profile the gut microbiome with cell-phenotype resolution. I am particularly excited about this project because it will assist the field to address big unknowns like the dynamics of gut colonization by probiotics, and their interaction with the native microbiome.” Ntekas believes the findings will contribute to microbiome basic research and set the ground for the next generation of probiotics.

The impact of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome has exceeded expectations and been tied to brain, digestive and immune function. Unsurprisingly, consumer interest in fermented foods, immune health and gut health has soared – and top research institutions are pioneering new ways to study various aspects of its power, potential and influence. Plus, consumers are increasingly interested in the connection between gut health and the immune system as they continue to seek out products that are tailored to helping improve specific health and wellness issues.

“Receiving the Danone North America Grant will allow me to study the effects of maternal administration of probiotics on offspring gut-brain axis and the relationship to socioemotional development in an environmental toxicant model,” says Kozlova. “The gut microbiome is emerging as an influential factor in host health; therefore, this grant provides excellent training opportunities in this exciting new field of research and will help guide scientific advancements. The interaction between gut microbiota and environmental toxicants is not well studied. This grant will allow us to examine the potential to promote healthy development of social neuropeptide and thyroid endocrine systems as well as how male and female offspring may be differentially affected. Lastly, we will better understand how maternal breast milk can provide a healthy microbiome.”

“The field of probiotics and the microbiome continues to evolve at great speed, and the emergence of new technologies and human models, such as the projects funded this year, will further accelerate our understanding of this field,” adds Dr. Freitas. “The impact of the gut microbiome on human health is far-reaching, from benefits to our digestive and immune system, to playing a key role as the core of our mind-body connection, which is why investments to better understand this unique ecosystem are so important.”

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 U.S., 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.

About the 2021-2022 Danone Fellowship Grant The Danone Fellow Grant is awarded to incoming or current graduate students who have demonstrated an interest in exploring the gut microbiome, probiotics and 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 2022 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.