White Plains, N.Y.-based Dannon, as a part of DanoneWave Public Benefit Corp., announced the sixth annual Yogurt, Probiotics and the Gut Microbiome Fellowship Grant.

In addition to the ambition to produce healthful foods that create economic and social value and nurture natural ecosystems through sustainable agriculture, Dannon, along with DanoneWave and Danone, is dedicated to supporting the discovery of how nutrition can improve human health. The 2017-2018 Dannon grant will award two exemplary graduate students $25,000 each to explore how the gut microbiome, probiotics and yogurt enhance well-being. The company said $200,000 of grant money has been gifted to date.

"Fostering scientific advancements to benefit public health is a core value of Dannon and DanoneWave," explained Miguel Freitas, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for DanoneWave. "Exploration into the gut microbiome, probiotics and yogurt represents an exciting and rapidly developing area of study – one that appears to have a remarkable impact on human health."

The Dannon Fellowship Grant was established to help further study in the vastly diverse areas of the yogurt, probiotics and the gut microbiome. The study of the gut microbiome, and the benefit of probiotics and fermented foods such as yogurt, has taken off as scientists uncover the powerful relationship between the microorganisms in the gut and human health, Dannon said. Not surprisingly, the gut microbiome plays an important role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and it goes far beyond that into critical areas of health. The health of the gut microbiome has been linked with brain, digestive and immune function, among other benefits. 

Last year's grant winners were Erin Davis of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her study of the impact of probiotic yogurt consumption during breastfeeding on the immune and microbial composition of the milk, as well as on maternal and infant gut microbiota, Dannon noted. For the fifth anniversary of the grant, an additional award was offered and awarded to Haley Chatelaine of The Ohio State University. Chatelaine advanced the field by using cutting-edge analyses to identify the chemical signature of probiotic yogurt.

"Supporting future scientific leaders aligns with our aim to change the way the world eats to benefit both people's and our planet's health," Freitas said. "We recognize that the next generation of scientists are integral to reaching this goal."

The program is accepting applications until Feb. 15, 2018. To qualify, individuals must be incoming or current graduate students who have demonstrated an interest in exploring the gut microbiome, probiotics and/or yogurt. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, show proof of U.S. residence and be able to use the scholarship funds during 2018 at an accredited US institution, Dannon said.

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 at http://www.dannon.com/fellowship-application.