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Volume 2, Issue 3
March 2021


Director's Corner


After careful planning and consideration of input from faculty, administrators, and external partners, the Personalized Nutrition Initiative has identified its research theme areas and is now accepting applications from tenure-track faculty and professional researchers on the Urbana-Champaign campus to be affiliated with the Personalized Nutrition Initiative.

Research Theme Areas: Four research theme areas represent areas of faculty research expertise within personalized nutrition. Crosscutting across the Research Themes are various Physiological States or Systems and Data Acquisition and Analytics approaches, which are integral to all aspects of the research themes and personalized nutrition. During the application process faculty will be asked to identify which theme areas they would like to be affiliated with.

Affiliates: Affiliates with the Personalized Nutrition Initiative will hold a 0%-time appointment for 5-years and it will be renewable upon review of contributions to the Personalized Nutrition Initiative in the previous 5-years. There is no tenure affiliated with the Personalized Nutrition Initiative nor will office or lab space be provided through the Initiative.

As an Affiliate you will have the opportunities to participate in the following activities, among others:

  1. Engage in interdisciplinary personalized nutrition-related research with affiliates and outside Personalized Nutrition Initiative-associated organizations;
  2. Apply for seed grant funding to initiate new transdisciplinary personalized nutrition areas of research;
  3. Participate in future Center, Program Project or Training grants;
  4. Serve on the Personalized Nutrition Initiative Steering Committee; and
  5. Provide and attend seminars and participate on panel discussions with internal and external audiences.

Click here to Apply

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions or suggestions.

Sharon Donovan, PhD, RD
Director, Personalized Nutrition Initiative


Personalized Nutrition Seminar – Spring 2021


The Personalized Nutrition Initiative has organized the Division of Nutritional Sciences' "Frontiers in Nutritional Sciences Seminar Series" on the topic of Personalized Nutrition –Challenges and Opportunities for the Spring Semester. Upcoming seminars will be via Zoom at 4-5 PM on Wednesdays, except for Monday, March 22nd. The seminar series will feature external experts as well as highlight the research being conducted by our faculty and students across campus. The full seminar line-up is posted on the Personalized Nutrition Initiative website. Below is information about upcoming speakers:

Join the seminars through this Zoom link for the seminars, unless stated otherwise:
Meeting ID: 814 1581 8647                Password: 916199


Monday March 22, 2021
Eunice Santos, PhD
Professor and Dean, School of Information Sciences (iSchool), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Seminar Title: Socio-Cultural Modeling in Health Sciences


Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Brian Cunningham, PhD
Intel Alumni Endowed Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Department of Bioengineering

Director, Center for Genomic Diagnostics, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Seminar Title: Biosensor Diagnostics: Transitioning from Personalized Medicine to Personalized Nutrition


Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Krista Varady, PhD
Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois, Chicago

Seminar Title: Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting


Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Saurabh Sinha, PhD
Founder Professor and Willett Faculty Scholar, Department of Computer Science, Cancer Center of Illinois, and IGB, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Seminar Title: Data Analytics and Personalized Nutrition: Opportunities at Illinois




University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Precision Nutrition and Brain Health Symposium


April 15-16, 2021
Virtual Symposium,


Symposium Focus: The symposium focuses on the interaction between genes and nutrition affects brain development and health, incorporating precision nutrition into research on brain development, and advancing the field of brain development and function with precision nutrition.


The Food as Medicine Summit


May 25-26, 2021
Virtual Summit,


Summit Purpose: The Food as Medicine Summit brings together multiple stakeholders from healthcare and the food industry for a networking and learning opportunity truly grounded in evidence. Learn the latest of the whole field, and address the key obstacles standing in the way of widespread adoption and success for evidence-backed food for health.


In the News


An RD Digests The New Dietary Guidelines For Americans, 2020–2025


(mgbhealth, February 12, 2021) Every bite counts when it comes to nutrition and its direct impact on our health, disease risk, and longevity. How to make every bite count is what actually matters on the daily and what The USDA and HHS Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), 2020–2025 is all about….And while nutrient needs differ by life stage, our overall dietary patterns (quantity, variety, and foods that are consumed together) are surprisingly stable throughout life. "What is striking is that after age 2, healthy dietary patterns are remarkably consistent across the life span," says Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee member Sharon Donovan, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition and director of the personalized nutrition initiative at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The read the full article, click here.


The NIH Leaders on the Future of Precision Medicine, Healthcare Transformation


(NIH March 18, 2021) COVID-19 puts renewed focus on the urgent need to put diverse health data to work to support new discoveries and bring more precise prevention and treatment strategies to communities. A new commentary in Cell, co-authored by Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and Joshua C. Denny, M.D., M.S., chief executive officer of the All of Us Research Program, highlights seven opportunities to accelerate tailored medicine efforts and create a more equitable health landscape in the future.

The commentary covers key areas including huge cohorts, artificial intelligence, routine inclusion of genomics as part of clinical testing, deeper investigation of the role of phenomics and environment in health and disease, and returning value across diverse populations.

The authors highlight the role of large cohorts, like the All of Us Research Program, and the immense potential of such resources that aim to bring together diverse streams of information spanning genomics, social determinants of health, environmental exposures, electronic health record data, and wearable device data. They note that these resources offer tremendous opportunities for discovery across every area of medicine, but that an “open science” approach is needed for researchers to combine data across cohorts to maximize their impact on a global scale.

Another necessary growth area the authors discuss is improving diversity and inclusion in science. As a case in point: a Nature Genetics paper last year reported that people of African or Hispanic/Latin American genetic ancestry make up less than 3% of participants in published, genome-wide association studies. Collins and Denny contend that such underrepresentation has the potential to worsen current health disparities, while also weakening biological discovery that could benefit all populations. All of Us is working to change this, with more than 80% of its core participant cohort from populations that are historically underrepresented in biomedical research, including more than 50% from racial and ethnic minorities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for transformative change in health research to meet the needs of communities nationwide, especially communities of color bearing the brunt of the virus’s impact. With a bold plan in place — including international collaboration, engagement of diverse populations of participants and researchers, and broad access to data — the authors believe more precise medicine is possible for all.


External Funding Opportunities


NIH- Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund) – 6 RFAs for Nutrition for Precision Health


Application Deadlines: April 6, 2021


Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Artificial Intelligence for Multimodal Data Modeling and Bioinformatics Center (U54 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-RM-21-001)

Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Metabolomics and Clinical Assays Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-RM-21-002)

Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Microbiome and Metagenomics Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-RM-21-003)

Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Dietary Assessment Center (U24 Clinical Trial Optional) (RFA-RM-21-004)

Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Clinical Centers (UG1 Clinical Trial Required) (RFA-RM-21-005)

Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program: Research Coordinating Center (U24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) (RFA-RM-21-006)


National Science Foundation and National Institute for Health- Smart Health and Biomedical Research in the Era of Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Data Science


Application Deadline: November 10, 2021


Purpose: This interagency program solicitation supports the development of transformative high-risk, high-reward advances in computer and information science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, behavioral and/or cognitive research to address pressing questions in the biomedical and public health communities. Transformations hinge on scientific and engineering innovations by interdisciplinary teams that develop novel methods to intuitively and intelligently collect, sense, connect, analyze and interpret data from individuals, devices and systems to enable discovery and optimize health. Solutions to these complex biomedical or public health problems demand the formation of interdisciplinary teams that are ready to address these issues, while advancing fundamental science and engineering.
Guidelines: Click here for the Program Solicitation


Stay Connected


Click here to join our mailing list and get updates from the Personalized Nutrition Initiative, including our newsletter. 


The Personalized Nutrition Initiative is a campuswide partnership between the Office of
the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (OVCRI), the Carl R. Woese Institute
for Genomic Biology (IGB), and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and
Environmental Sciences (ACES).

Visit the Personalized Nutrition Initiative website for more information.


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