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Human Milk Institute Launches New Research Consortium

Five interconnected seed grants will establish a research consortium at the Human Milk Institute. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Human Milk Institute (HMI), established at University of California San Diego in 2022, recently received start-up funding from Novonesis, a global leader in biosolutions, for five interconnected seed grants to establish a research consortium aimed at setting a new standard for collaboration and accelerating discoveries and knowledge in Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) science.

HMOs, which are complex milk sugars/carbohydrates, are the third most abundant component of human milk after lactose and lipids. They are associated with multiple health benefits in infants, but new studies indicate that they may also serve as biosolutions for people of other age groups.

In addition to the funding, Novonesis is providing HMOs and probiotics for the research.

The shared vision of the new consortium is to revolutionize the study, understanding and application of HMOs and advance the field of synbiotics. This combination of HMOs and probiotics working synergistically helps to promote a balanced and healthy gut microbiota which positively influences various aspects of health, including digestion, immune function and overall well-being.

The research consortium will be anchored at HMI under the leadership of Lars Bode, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology and the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition in the Department of Pediatrics, and HMI founding director.

“The five grantees will not work in isolation but interact closely together to leverage their complementary skills and expertise to generate the most meaningful and impactful results as a consortium,” said Bode.

A leap forward

The research consortium will empower scientific communities by facilitating collaboration between academia and industry, encouraging innovation and knowledge exchange to ultimately elevate the collective understanding and knowledge of how human milk and HMOs and probiotics impact human health and development.

"At Novonesis, we have a proud tradition of partnering up with top universities, and this consortium is a perfect fit with our purpose to better our world with biology,” said Amy Byrick, executive vice president of human health biosolutions at Novonesis. “Joining forces with UC San Diego, a powerhouse in research and discovery, marks the beginning of a journey with far-reaching impacts shaping the future of HMOs and synbiotics and advancing global health through innovative biosolutions.”

HMI and Novonesis are committed to eventually bringing in other academic and industry partners to develop a strategic framework that identifies knowledge gaps and outlines a robust path to close them.

“There are so many aspects we don’t fully understand yet,” said Bode. “Only together, with a strategic, robust, and synergistic approach, will we be able to uncover the immense potential of HMOs and synbiotics for human health and development.”

– Joyce Pritchett