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Volume 1, Issue 4
December 2020

Director's Corner

The first six months of the Personalized Nutrition Initiative have been busy and productive with many meetings with campus leaders, faculty, industry leaders. This information, together with the results of our Campus Input Survey will be used to establish the Personalized Nutrition Initiative research themes and our strategic goals for the next 3-5 years. We also worked with faculty and researchers across campus to submit two responses to NIH’s request for information in the areas of “Challenges and Opportunities in Precision Nutrition Research” and “Data Science Challenges and Opportunities in the Field of Precision Nutrition”, see more below and on our website

We are excited about the Spring 2021 weekly seminar series “Personalized Nutrition –Challenges and Opportunitiesthat we are organizing through the Division of Nutritional Sciences, see more below. We have an impressive list of external and internal speakers lined up and hope that you will be able to join us via Zoom. We will also be organizing opportunities for faculty and students to meet with the speakers via Zoom.

 I am looking forward to 2021 when we will share the Campus Input Survey findings and start pulling together faculty with similar interests to promote collaborations and grant writing.  I wish you a festive holiday season and a happy new year. Hope you all stay healthy and safe. 

Sharon Donovan, PhD, RD
Director, Personalized Nutrition Initiative

NIH Request for Information – Data Science

The Personalized Nutrition Initiative at Illinois together with 36 faculty and researchers representing 20 units across campus submitted a 15-page response to the new Request for Information (RFI) that NIH issued on Data Science Challenges and Opportunities in the Field of Precision Nutrition. We included responses to the 4 specific questions that NIH outlined in the RFI and laid out a few additional challenges and opportunities. This follows on our response this past summer for the request for information on Challenges and Opportunities in Precision Nutrition Research. To read the full responses, see the News section of our website.

Personalized Nutrition Seminar – Spring 2021

The Division of Nutritional Sciences has invited the PNI to organize the “Frontiers in Nutritional Sciences Seminar Series” on the topic of Personalized Nutrition –Challenges and Opportunities during the Spring Semester. Please hold 4-5 PM on Wednesdays during Spring Semester 2021 and Monday, February 15th and Monday, March 22nd. This will be a great opportunity to bring external experts to campus as well as highlight the nutrition-related research being conducted by our faculty and students across campus. All seminars will be online via Zoom.

Here are two seminar speakers who will be presenting this spring:


Wednesday, February 10, 2020
José Ordovás PhD

Professor of Nutrition and Genetics, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Lead Scientist & Senior Scientist, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Boston, MA
Seminar Title: Precision Nutrition and Cardiometabolic Traits



Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Joshua C Anthony PhD, MBA

Founder and CEO, Nlumn, LLC, Princeton, NJ
Alumni from Division of Division of Nutritional Sciences (MS 1998)
Seminar Title*: Dr. Hindsight’s Guide to Commercializing Personal Nutrition: Lessons Learned from Launching and Selling Habit

 *This seminar is co-sponsored by the Institute for Genomic Biology Fox Family Lecture Series in Innovation and Entrepreneurship


NIH Precision Nutrition: Research Gaps and Opportunities Workshop

January 11-12, 2021


Precision nutrition is a holistic approach to developing comprehensive and dynamic nutrition recommendations relevant to both individual and population health. This workshop will bring together scientists with diverse expertise to explore how best to address these complex factors. It also will focus on diet-related chronic diseases and how artificial intelligence (AI) and deep-learning techniques may be used to generate individualized dietary recommendations and algorithms. Opportunities for research and training of the next generation of future researchers in the field of precision nutrition will be discussed. Register

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

April 15-16, 2021
Virtual Symposium, Register


Symposium Focus:
-the interaction between genes and nutrition affects brain development and health
-incorporating precision nutrition into research on brain development
-advancing the field of brain development and function with precision nutrition

In the News

A new study from the University of Illinois by Hannah Holscher and collaborators from FSHN, DNS, NCSA, and statistics show fecal bacteria can be used to identify food intake with up to 85% accuracy. The scientists identified the bacterial footprints of food consumption using machine learning models and bioinformatics to study the large, complicated datasets created in microbiota studies.

Importantly, the researchers were able to narrow down the list of hundreds of bacteria to 15 to 23 unique bacteria that could differentiate between the foods consumed in the studies. Their work is a promising step in dietary biomarker research and may ultimately help inform personalized nutrition recommendations.

External Funding Opportunities

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: February 16 and 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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