Young scientists handed $50,000 to probe probiotics

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotics, Gut flora, Global probiotics council

Young researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard University have won $50,000 grants to investigate the role of probiotics in health and disease.

The grants, in their second year, were established by The Global Probiotics Council (GPC), a joint venture between Danone and Yakult that was set up in 2004 to recognize rising stars from the science kingdom.

The two winners of the Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research (YIGPRO) have a year to spend the money on their chosen research project.

Glynis L. Kolling, PhD, an instructor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health at the University of Virginia, will continue her work on the ability of probiotics to restore gut microflora levels after inflammatory conditions, drug treatments, or infections.

The work could help patients who experience conditions such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) after receiving antibiotic treatment.

The other grant went to Xinhua Chen, PhD, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for his proposal: ‘Protective Role of Baker's Yeast in Colonic Inflammation and Cancer.​’

Chen will investigate the potential of yeast to prevent or cure intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.

“Dr Chen's work should contribute to the growing understanding of the mechanisms on how probiotics work in GI (gastrointestinal) disorders,”​ GPC said.

The review board for the grants included the US Probiotics Scientific Board Selection Committee, comprised of W. Allan Walker, MD and Conrad Taff, Professor of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School; Mary Ellen Sanders, PhD, executive director, International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP); Richard Guerrant, MD, director, Center for Global Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine and Balfour Sartor, MD, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology, and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We were very impressed with the high caliber of science in the applications received,"​ said committee chair, Dr Walker.

Yakult Honsha senior managing director, Yoshihiro Kawabata, said the grants were benefitting the probiotics sector in the US and among academia.

"We are very pleased with the direction and success of this program. We hope this grant will continue to increase interest and raise awareness of probiotics among young researchers in the United States,"​ Kawabata said.

The GPC has three main goals:

  • Raise awareness of probiotics and their health benefits through science-based education and dissemination of information to health care professionals and the public

  • Communicate with government bodies, and other relevant interest groups

  • Build relationships with leading researchers and research institutions and supporting collaboration research in the area of probiotics and intestinal microbiota.

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