WHITE PLAINS, NY – Danone North America awarded grants worth $25,000 each to graduate student researchers focusing on the gut microbiome, yogurt and probiotics.

The food and beverage corporation named University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Evan Chrisler and Baylor College of Medicine’s Arushana Maknojia the latest recipients of its Annual Gut Microbiome, Yogurt and Probiotic Fellowship Program.

As Danone noted in its announcement regarding the grants, consumers are increasingly interested in improving gut and immune health through foods rich in probiotics, with health benefits being linked to yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome.

Miguel Freitas, PhD, vice president of health and scientific affairs at Danone North America, said the company strives to meet consumers’ evolving needs with pioneering research tied to yogurt’s health benefits.

“The fellowship grant helps propel this important research," Freitas said. "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."

At Baylor, Danone shared, Maknojia will research how inflammatory signals from commensal microbes regulate the steady-state hematopoiesis, the blood cell production process.

Maknojia said the role of the gut microbiota in normal blood production and function is poorly understood.

"I am excited to fill this critical gap by delineating the mechanism by which intestinal commensals communicate with the bone marrow to promote hematopoiesis,” Maknojia said. “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."

At the University of Wisconsin, Chrisler will research the effects of timing of ingestion and type of probiotic on metabolism and immunity, Danone shared.

"Being awarded the 2023-2024 Danone fellowship grant is an unforgettable milestone in my academic career, for which I am grateful and honored," Chrisler said. "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."

Freitas said knowledge of the microbiome is “changing rapidly,” and Danone hopes the projects funded will further inform what is known within the field.

"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,” Freitas said.

Per Danone, its grant program in 12 years has delivered more than $500,000 in grants to researchers and scientific advancements in the microbiome space.

The company said it established the fellowship grant to fund novel studies of yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome. Danone said a panel of expert judges chooses winners based on the quality of applicants’ proposals, faculty recommendations and the research’s value to human health and wellness.