The Global Probiotics Council (GPC) today announced the awardees of two new research grants, which are designed to develop understanding of the mechanistic processes that promote human health.
The council, which was set up in 2004 by Groupe Danaone and Yakult Honsha, said the grants are designed to stimulate innovative research, support young investigators, and attract new researchers in the United States into the field of probiotics and gut microbiota.
The current grants, each of a value of $50,000 for a year, will allow the elected researchers to contribute to bridging gaps in the field of probiotics and the gut.
The first grant was awarded to Ajay Gulati, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the department of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The US Probiotics Scientific Board Selection Committee, which evaluated all applications, selected Gulati for his research proposal, ‘Antimicrobial Peptide Mediated Alterations of the Gut Microbiome in Nod 2/IL-10 Deficient Mice.’
“This research will focus on a very important mechanistic process that could help researchers understand how host immune responses control the bacterial population that lives in the gut,” said GPC.
The other grant will be awarded to Matthew Ciorba, MD, an instructor in medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at Washington University in Saint Louis for his proposal, ‘Probiotic Bacteria Protect from Radiation Induced Intestinal Injury: Mechanisms of Action’.
“This study could make an important contribution in understanding the mechanisms by which a probiotic may protect the intestine from cell destruction caused by radiation,” according to GPC.
The group highlighted the “impressive quality” of all applications it received, which then underwent review by the selection committee.
The committee is composed of W. Allan Walker, MD, Conrad Taff Professor of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School, Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, Executive Director, International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), and Balfour Sartor, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The growth of probiotics
Probiotics have become a household term, largely thanks to the marketing efforts of big brands like Yakult and Danone's Actimel, which are credited with creating the category.
The beneficial bacteria are found naturally in the human gut, and are crucial for good gut health. When an imbalance occurs between probiotic and pathogenic bacteria, the result may be digestive problems such as diarrhea, irregularity or constipation. Regular consumption of probiotics is also said to ward off numerous preconditions for an array of diseases.
Danone and Yakult, which announced the grants in February this year, said they hope they will allow researchers to further explore the benefits of probiotics. The grants are designed to encourange researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, immunology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology, and infectious disease to foster innovative ideas, sustain independence, and advance science.
"These grants will also further advance understanding about the relationship between probiotics and the intestinal flora and are anticipated to expand the already stable research platform," said Ryuji Chino, Yakult senior managing director.
The probiotics market in the US, which has grown exponentially in the past few years, is predicted to still have significant room to grow for those companies that can effectively communicate the benefits of the ingredient to consumers.
The concept of friendly bacteria first gained foothold in Europe and has slowly made its way over to the US where, according to Euromonitor data, the probiotic spoonable yoghurt market alone went from $112m in 2001 to $294m in 2006.
The European food and beverage probiotics market is expected to more than double by 2013, according to Frost & Sullivan. The Strategic Analysis of the European Food and Beverage Probiotics Market, says the market is expected to rise from its 2006 position of $61.7m to $163.5m by 2013.