Grand Challenges: Integrating Tradition and Technology for Fermented Foods for Maternal Nutrition
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently seeking applications for the Grand Challenges “Integrating Tradition and Technology for Fermented Foods for Maternal Nutrition”.
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This call seeks to fund pilot studies that investigate the biological effect of traditional locally fermented foods on the key microbiome, gut, and health biomarkers in local populations. The goal is to provide investigators in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with the resources to build local capacity to investigate fermented foods as novel maternal nutrition interventions. In particular, sequencing technology – a transformative tool that has enabled in-depth investigation of microbial communities – will be provided to all investigators to democratize the ability to investigate foods and health effects, and build local capacity. Ultimately, the goal is to empower local communities to develop geography and culture-specific interventions powered by fermentation, in-country.
Proposals should specifically address the following core elements, but investigators are welcome to propose creative strategies and designs to accomplish the core goals of this call and account for local cultural traditions. In addition, it is expected that the study design will be refined after award through a collaborative forum involving other awardees and the foundation:
Identification of a local (geographic/cultural) fermented food for study
Many foods may not be colloquially considered to be fermented, but any process that incorporates biotransformation by microbes is acceptable;
Living microbes were actively employed as a part of the fermentation process and final product consumed retains live organisms;
Fermentation may be driven by known organisms, e.g. bacterial Lactobacillus sp., fungal Aspergillus sp., or less studied food-borne organisms;
Must be plant-based (e.g., grain or staple crop). Plant-based fermented foods are a requirement due to the lower cost of goods for scalability compared to animal-based foods;
Food with a cultural precedent in maternal nutrition are of high interest;
The food being investigated must be produced in compliance under all relevant local food manufacturing regulations and modern food safety practices;
Pilot study design for longitudinal intervention study for understanding the effect of the fermented food in a naïve (no, or limited, fermented food consumption) population
The target population should be women of reproductive age, and a naive population not currently consuming or with limited consumption of the target fermented food to better understanding the biological effects of the food itself.
Longitudinal intervention studies are recommended, with small cohort sizes (20-30 participants) and sustained exposure to the fermented food (e.g., at least daily >5 days) but ultimately the study design should be motivated by the end goal of characterizing the effects of the food on maternal nutrition through the host (blood and fecal) and gut microbiome biomarkers.
A template dietary questionnaire will be provided and can be customized to local foods and traditions.
Existing infrastructure that may improve the ability to execute on the proposed study can and should be highlighted.
Biological sample biobanking and characterization before and after food intervention
Fermented foods themselves (metagenomic analysis of fungal [ITS] and bacterial [16S] constituents), potentially across distinct batches and preparation methods.
Serial fecal samples from participants (metagenomic analysis; lipocalin-2, myeloperoxidase, and calprotectin of particular interest).
Serial serum/blood samples from participants (Iron studies, B-vitamin analysis; lipocalin-2, IL-6 and CRP are of particular interest given the association of inflammation biomarkers with maternal nutrition and birth outcomes).
Other characterization approaches of food (including effects of fermentation on the nutritional profile) or biological samples using conventional or existing techniques.
Proposals should specifically address existing laboratory infrastructure and capacity for integrating next-generation sequencing into existing laboratory workflows (e.g. nucleic acid extraction, PCR, etc.).
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As a part of this Grand Challenges award, sequencing platforms (funded with up to USD $40K for sequencing technology out of this USD $200K award) and training will be provided to investigators to enable local sequence-based characterization of the fermented foods and microbiome effects.
Grand Challenges is open to both foreign and domestic organizations, including non-profit organizations, for-profit companies, international organizations, government agencies and academic institutions. Individuals and organizations classified as individuals for U.S. tax purposes are not eligible to receive an award from the foundation as part of the Grand Challenges initiative.
Upon registration, applicants must provide information about the tax status of their organization as different terms and conditions may apply.
Investigators and institutions not located in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia;
Investigators not studying local foods (specific to the culture or geography);
Investigators not investigating local populations;
Proposals that do not contain a human interventional study targeted towards women of reproductive age. No studies on child populations will be funded;
Proposals not addressing all the stated study design criteria above;
Proposals that do not demonstrate a capacity to perform the research proposed; investigators should describe the capacity for human studies, sample collection, processing and storage, including but not limited to:
Relevant approvals from local authorities/institutions/Government on the research methodology and sharing of data among collaborators, eventually for global access;
Data analysis and adherence to relevant local laws/ policies pertaining to data sharing, hosting and data protection;
Secure handling of personally identifiable information data and research results;
Institutional Review Boards or equivalent human study regulation strategy;
Sample collection capacity/protocols and capacity for sample storage;
Ability to perform human biological sample characterization as proposed.
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