Global Probiotics Council Awards the 2011 Young Investigator Grants for Probiotics Research

Sep 15, 2011, 13:00 ET from Danone from ,YAKULT HONSHA CO., LTD.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Global Probiotics Council (GPC), a committee formed by Danone and YAKULT HONSHA CO., LTD., announced the two recipients of the fourth annual Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research (YIGPRO) today. The program was created to contribute to the advancement of probiotics and gastrointestinal microbiota research in the United States. This year's grant focus is on the role of probiotics and gastrointestinal microbiota in health and wellness.

Eric Martens, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School was selected for his research proposal, "Host Responses to Mucus Layer Colonization by Commensal Microbiota Species." Certain strains of commensal bacteria reside in the protective mucus layer that lines the inside of the intestine.  They are thought to have a unique effect on host bowel health because of their proximity to the cells of the intestine.  Dr. Martens' research will examine how these bacterial species differ from non-mucus-inhabiting commensal bacteria in their influence on intestinal health.  This novel approach may shed light on which bacterial species protect against or contribute to disease states like inflammatory bowel disease.

The other grant will be awarded to Suzanne Noble, MD, PhD, who is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Medicine and of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco. Her proposal, titled, "Interactions of the Yeast, Candida albicans, with the Bacterial Gut Microbiota in Health and Disease" will test the hypothesis that the commensal microorganisms in humans interact to promote either health or disease. Dr. Noble will examine the molecular interactions between commensal bacteria and the yeast C. albicans, which can be either a commensal or a pathogen. Bacteria found to diminish the disease-related attributes of this fungus could be eventually used as probiotics in humans to curb C. albicans infections.

The GPC was extremely pleased with the outstanding quality of the applications received for the fourth consecutive year of this grant.  A thorough scientific review of all the applications was provided by the U.S. Probiotics Scientific Board Selection Committee, which is comprised 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), 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. "This was an exceptional group of applicants and the caliber of science was remarkable," said Dr. Walker, Chair of the Committee.

The GPC is committed to raising awareness of probiotics and their health benefits through science-based education. "Four years ago, we created the Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research to stimulate innovative research relevant to the field of gastrointestinal microbiota and to support young investigators in the United States," says Mr. Yoshihiro Kawabata, Director Deputy President, YAKULT HONSHA CO., LTD. "The response we have received each year is proof of escalating interest in the research fields of probiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota."

"There is clearly growing excitement in the area of probiotics and microbiota research," said Jean-Philippe Pare, Executive Vice President Danone R&D. "We hope these grants will help to uncover additional beneficial probiotics and will identify critical mechanisms by which they are promoting health."

The Global Probiotics Council will provide $50,000 over the course of one year to both Drs. Martens and Noble, and their respective institutions.

Additional details and future announcements on the Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research program can be found at

About the Global Probiotics Council:

The Global Probiotics Council (GPC) was established in 2004 through a collaborative agreement between Danone and YAKULT HONSHA CO, LTD. The role of the GPC is to promote and/or advance probiotics in the world, through means such as:

  1. Raising awareness of probiotics and their health benefits through science-based education and dissemination of information to health care professionals and the public;
  2. Communicating with government bodies, and other relevant interest groups; and
  3. Building relationships with leading researchers and research institutions and supporting collaboration research in the area of probiotics and intestinal microbiota.

GPC activities began with the establishment of the Probiotics Scientific Board in the United States. The Young Investigator Grant for Probiotics Research program was established to meet these goals by contributing to the advancement of probiotics research in the United States.

About Danone & Danone Research:

Danone is the world's leading producer of yogurt products. These products are sold under the Dannon and Danone brand names. Since its founding, Danone has built its business on product offerings, which combine health benefits and taste. Danone Research is the organization responsible for all Danone R&D activities (1200 employees worldwide). Its mission is to formulate Danone products with health benefits based on scientific evidence. It also studies the effects of food on health and aims to continuously improve the nutritional profile of Danone products worldwide.

Among others, probiotic research is a key expertise of Danone Research.  Over the past 90 years, Danone has amassed a collection of approximately 4,000 lactic bacteria strains or "cultures." In addition to taste and texture, some of these cultures provide probiotic health properties. Such is the case of Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010, used to make Activia, and Lactobacillus casei DN-114 001, used to make Actimel (known as DanActive in the US and Canada). Because this culture collection holds considerable potential for product innovation, Danone Research is carefully studying it using state-of-the-art technologies to select the probiotic bacteria of the future. For more information, please visit,


From our earliest research on lactobacilli, through the development of our food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical businesses, Yakult has retained its commitment to improving human health. Today our responsibilities extend beyond basic health to embrace global social and environmental challenges. Yakult's Central Institute works to elucidate the relationship between human health and intestinal microbiota, focusing on basic research into the structures and functions of microbiota. 'YIF-SCAN', Yakult's state-of-the-art intestinal flora analysis system, selectively quantifies bacteria based on the unique gene sequences of individual microbiota. Synbiotic treatments (combining probiotics and prebiotics) have already been shown to promote the recovery of immune functions, prevent septic complications, promote absorption and digestion, improve nutritional status, and enhance recuperative powers by improving the balance of the microbiota. Yakult's network extends through Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Europe and our products are sold through 27 overseas operations and consumed in 32 countries. Daily global consumption of Yakult dairy products numbered 30 million in June 2010. We will continue to strive to deepen our understanding of lactobacilli and support good health for all. Yakult U.S.A. Inc., the subsidiary of YAKULT HONSHA CO., LTD., is stationed in Torrance, CA. For more information, please visit, and