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Volume 2, Issue 8
August 2021


Director's Corner


It is hard to believe that one year has passed since the launch of the Personalized Nutrition Initiative at Illinois! Despite a challenging year of COVID, we were able to make progress towards establishing the administrative and programmatic structure of the Personalized Nutrition Initiative, including recruiting more than 50 program affiliates, establishing the Steering Committee, and forming our Inaugural External Partners Program. Additional information on Steering Committee and External Partners is provided below.

In our first year, we also assembled a team of 25 researchers to submit an application to be the Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics Center for the NIH Precision Nutrition for Health Consortium. Although our application was not successful, the process allowed us to identify future opportunities for partnerships and grant applications in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. My co-PI, Saurabh Sinha, and I will be working with cross-campus investigators to pull together these research teams. In addition, we are working with Brian Cunningham and the members of the IGB Center for Genomic Diagnostics to identify opportunities for collaborations in the area of diagnostics. The overarching goal is to foster new cross-disciplinary collaborations and to support that work with seed funding. Look for the call for Seed Grant applications in the near future.

Lastly, we would like to build upon our successful Nutritional Sciences 500 seminar series by hosting personalized nutrition-focused seminars this upcoming year. Please let us know if you have any speakers that you would like for us to invite (either to campus or virtually). 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


Campus Affiliates


Our 50 Affiliates from 18 campus units at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can be viewed on our website. In addition, the Affiliates can be sorted by Research Theme area, by the cross-cutting Physiological States or System, and by Data Acquisition and Analytics approaches.

Want to become an Affiliate? We are accepting applications from tenure-track faculty and professional researchers on the Urbana-Champaign campus to be affiliated with the Personalized Nutrition Initiative. Click here to Learn More and Apply.


Steering Committee Members


We are excited to announce the members of the initial Steering Committee for the Personalized Nutrition Initiative. The Steering committee is comprised of the Director and 9 Affiliates who represent the breadth of expertise across the research themes and cross cutting areas. The initial committee members have been appointed for 1, 2 or 3 years. In subsequent years, Steering Committee members will be elected for 3 year terms by Personalized Nutrition Initiative Affiliates. The Steering Committee serves as the primary advisory committee to the Director in regards to operating protocols and procedures. The members of the Committee also serve as a channel of communication between program affiliates and the Director. Please feel free to reach out to the Dr. Donovan or any Steering Committee member with any questions or recommendations.


Steering Committee Member and Title [Initial Term]

Sharon Donovan, PhD, RD, Director, Personalized Nutrition Initiative; Professor & Melissa M. Noel Endowed Chair in Nutrition & Health, FSHN, ACES [N/A]

John Erdman, PhDAssociate Director, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute
Professor Emeritus, FSHN, ACES [1 year]

Kelly Swanson, PhDThe Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Dept. of Animal Sciences, ACES [1 year]

Jeff Woods, PhD, Mottier Family Professor of AHS, Dept. of Kinesiology & Community Health, AHS and Associate Dean of Research, AHS; Director, Center on Healthy Aging & Disability [1 year]

Colleen Bushell, MFAAssociate Director & Associate Research Professor, National Center for Supercomputing Applications [2 years]

Elvira de Mejia, PhD, Director, Division of Nutritional Sciences; Professor, FSHN, ACES [2 years]

Naiman Khan, PhD, RDAssociate Professor, Dept. of Kinesiology & Community Health, AHS [2 years]

Brian Cunningham, PhDDirector, Center for Genomic Diagnostics, IGB; Professor & Intel Alumni Endowed Chair, Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Grainger College of Engineering [3 years]

Halil Kilicoglu, PhD [3 years] Associate Professor, School of Information Sciences

Saurabh Sinha, PhD [3 years] Director, Computational Genomics, IGB; Professor, Dept. of Computer Sciences, Grainger College of Engineering

Abbreviations: ACES: College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; AHS: College of Applied Health Sciences; FSHN: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition; IGB: Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

External Partners


The Personalized Nutrition Initiative seeks out collaborations with External Partners for the bidirectional exchange of information needed to advance the field of personalized nutrition. External Partners will identify areas of precompetitive research to be pursued by the Personalized Nutrition Initiative and will also have the opportunity to engage faculty in consulting and confidential research. External Partners will also network with graduate students and postdoctoral fellow engaged in Personalized Nutrition-related research across campus. Lastly, one member of each External Partner will also serve on the Personalized Nutrition Initiative External Advisory Committee.

We are excited to announce the seven members of our inaugural External Partners Program, who will help us to further develop and refine the External Partners Program over the next year.

  • Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM)
  • General Mills
  • Givaudan
  • National Dairy Council
  • Nestlé
  • PepsiCo
  • PharmaVite

We will hold our initial External Partners meeting in September and appreciate their enthusiasm for our program. We look forward to including additional External Partners in the future.




National Breastfeeding Month: Interview with an Expert on the Science


In honor of National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week, American Society for Nutrition (ASN) has curated a special free collection of research from ASN Journals, ASN Meetings, and an interview with ASN Member Sharon M. Donovan, PhD, RD, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies the impact of nutrition on the first 1,000 days of life.




NIH Methodological Approaches for Whole Person Research Workshop


Sep 29-30, 2021 (11:30 AM- 5:30PM ET)
Virtual Workshop, Register

This free virtual NIH workshop on whole person research will focus on the methods needed for rigorous reearch on interconnected systems, multicomponent interventions, and multsystem or multiorgan outcomes. The goal is to identify research methods from other fields than can be applied to whole person research, as well as gaps, opportunities, and needs that could be met via new research.  Inivited speakers will disucss study design and methodological challenges for whole person research.
The workshop will be led by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Workshop collaborators include the National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Fogarty International Center, Office of Research on Women’s Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, Office of Disease Prevention, and the Office of Nutrition Research within the NIH Office of the Director.
This workshop will provide examples of research studies in these three areas from diverse fields. Whether you’re a scientist in the fields of system/computational biology or complex clinical trials, or a complementary and integrative health provider or researcher, whole person researcher, or a researcher whose work is outside these fields but interested in the topic, you should find this workshop of interest. 

Division of Nutritional Sciences Frontiers in Nutritional Sciences Seminar Series


Wednesdays 4-5PM during Fall 2021, Schedule


The Fall 2021 Frontiers in Nutritional Sciences seminar series is open to the public and will held online via zoom on Wednesday 4-5PM. The topic area this fall is “Nutrition Policy & Systems Approaches to Improve Diet Quality and Promote Health Equity”. The series is led by Dr. Melissa Prescott, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


NIH Nutrition Health Disparities Research Event

Food Insecurity, Neighborhood Food Environment, and Nutrition Health Disparities: State of the Science
Sep. 21-23, 2021 (12:30-5:30 PM EDT)
Virtual Workshop,
Register by Sep. 7, 2021

This online event is free and open to the public. Plus, attendees can network and participate in two virtual poster sessions highlighting innovative nutrition research to address food insecurity and neighborhood food environments. Workshop Agenda.

Goal: To review the state of the science, identify research gaps and opportunities related to food insecurity and the neighborhood food environment, and suggest innovative research strategies that will inform policy and practice to address and prevent diet-related health disparities and promote health equity.


External Funding Opportunities


NIH R01 Identification and Characterization of Bioactive Microbial Metabolites for Advancing Research on Microbe-Diet-Host Interactions Clinical Trial Not Allowed)


Letter of Intent Deadline: September 20, 2021, May 10, 2022 & more
Application Deadline: October 20, 2021, June 22, 2022 & more


Purpose: To invite applications to identify and characterize microbial metabolites that will establish causal associations between microbial metabolism and host health and disease. Data acquired through this initiative will be used to create a knowledgebase of microbial metabolites and associated functions that will be provided to the research community. Development of the database and knowledge portal for these awards will be supported under a separate initiative: RFA-DK-21-014, Identification and Characterization of Bioactive Microbial Metabolites for Advancing Research on Microbe-Diet-Host Interactions Knowledgebase Management Center (Clinical Trial Not Allowed).
Guidelines: Click here for the Funding Opportunity Link


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.