Danone North America Announces Fellowship Grant

Dec. 17, 2020

For the ninth year, $50,000 will be granted to graduate students exploring the critical role of the gut microbiome, yogurt and probiotics in human health.  

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Dec. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Danone North America announces it will award two graduate students $25,000 each for the 9th 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 certain chronic disease risk, such as for cardiovascular disease.

"Danone North America appreciates 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 vast portfolio of essential dairy and plant-based foods, 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) 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 fully elucidated. 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 mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible," 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 to nourish lives and sustain a healthier world through food."

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.

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.

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.

About the 2020-2021 Danone Fellowship Grant

The program is currently accepting applications until February 14, 2021. To qualify, individuals must be 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 2021 at an accredited U.S. institution, pending COVID-19 guidelines. 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:

2019 Winners:

Erica Kosmerl of The Ohio State University used her grant to research and examine the impact of dairy intake and bifidobacteria on the gut microbiome during infancy.

Elizabeth Morrison of Indiana University used her grant to research and assess the role of probiotic, B. Infantis on infant gut microbiome.

2018 Winners:

Megan Kennedy of the Medical Scientist Training Program at University of Chicago used her grant to take a closer look at whether or not there is a particular time in a person's 24-hour cycle when probiotics are best able to remain in the gut community.

Nick Jensen of the University of California Davis doctoral program studied how related types of beneficial bacteria breakdown different carbohydrates in the foods we eat, specifically milk oligosaccharides.

2017 Winners:

Caroline Kelsey of the University of Virginia used her grant funds to examine how gut bacteria and food intake influence brain development.

Yeonwoo Lebovitz of Virginia Tech used the grant to assess how a mother's gut microbiome can affect and protect their baby's neurological development.

2016 Winners:

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.

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.