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Laying the foundations for tomorrow’s solutions

© 2021 Springer Nature

For most of us, the past year was very different from others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Labs were closed down, and researchers and students were obliged to work from home. Like many other meetings, the 2020 panel meeting for the Global Grants for Gut Health was held online. The panel was greatly reassured to discover that good ideas are still blooming despite the many challenges imposed on the global scientific community by the pandemic.

In 2020, we asked for applications that focussed on the microbiome of the small intestine, which is less understood than the colonic and faecal microbiome since it is much harder to sample. We received a wealth of great proposals, and, as in the previous years, it was tough selecting the best ones. Here, we proudly present the three applicants and their projects that made it across the finishing line.

Marco Jost, member of the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, USA, is seeking to achieve the ambitious goal of decoding the communication between gut microbes and the enteroendocrine system. The panel was highly impressed by this excellent proposal, which involves using a series of techniques that far exceed the present state of the art to generate knowledge that in the long term may help develop therapeutics that affect hormone-producing pathways and gut–brain signaling circuits.

Guido Hooiveld, assistant professor in Nutrition, Metabolism and Genomics at Wageningen University in the Netherlands aims to elucidate how the human small-intestine microbiota affects interpersonal differences in glycemic responses on consuming food. The panel found this an original and exciting proposal that could lead to new strategies for preventing metabolic diseases — a huge challenge in many countries where diabetes is approaching epidemic proportions.

Purna C. Kashyap, consultant at the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in the US sets out to investigate the role of the small-intestinal microbiome in modulating intestinal physiology and symptoms underlying functional gastrointestinal disorders. Such disorders, which include irritable bowel syndrome, are very common but are difficult to diagnose and treat. The proposal, which is original in its strategy to combine human work with rodent recolonization, seeks to alleviate an important but currently unmet clinical need.

Together with the rest of the panel, I am confident that these excellent projects will help to lay the foundations for future solutions in the battle against several diseases and conditions that are becoming increasingly prevalent and that are likely to be linked to features of our gut microbiome. I wish the three recipients the best of luck with their crucial work!

Finally, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to fellow panelists Eran Elinav, Paul W. O’Toole, Karen P. Scott, Kiyoshi Takeda and Liping Zhao for their excellent contributions to the evaluation process.

Meet the panel

From left to right: Tine Rask Licht, Panel Chair, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark (DTU Food), Denmark. Eran Elinav, Department of Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Paul W. O'Toole, School of Microbiology and APC Microbiome Ireland, University of Cork College, Ireland.

Karen P. Scott, Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, Kiyoshi Takeda, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Japan, Liping Zhao, Chair of Applied Microbiology at Rutgers University, United States; Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

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