The Danone International Prize for Nutrition was created in 1997. Once every two years, with the support of the French “Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale”, Danone Institute International awards the prize, established to reward excellence and advancement in nutrition, to a scientist or team of scientists. It is awarded in the spirit of very distinguished scientiﬁc prizes to recognize a single researcher or a research team leading a major advancement in nutrition science, including new concepts and research ﬁelds with potential for application to human diet and health. This year, the 9th Danone International Prize for Nutrition goes to Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, MD, PhD, for his outstanding research in immunology and metabolic diseases.
The creation of immunometabolism
Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, this year’s winner, has been rewarded for his contribution to the emergence of the field of “immunometabolism,” a concept linking immunology and metabolism. Dr Hotamisligil is Chair of Harvard University’s School of Public Health, Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases and James S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism. He is an internationally recognized leader in nutrition science, and through his discoveries he has generated major insights about the underlying causes of obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.
His work particularly highlights the relationship between immunology and metabolism: “Our approach has been based on exploring the fundamental mechanisms underlying the susceptibility of modern humans to metabolic disease. A major trust in our research has been the interactions between two ancient and critical survival and adaptive systems – metabolism and immunity,” explained Dr Hotamisligil. These interactions work as a two-way street. Nutritional extremes (such as obesity or malnutrition) have dramatic effects on the function of the immune response; in turn, an altered immunological status (caused for instance by stress or injury) impacts metabolism at many levels and can become a significant component of metabolic diseases, like obesity and diabetes. These findings have opened a new field of scientific research, “immunometabolism”, and today many drug development programmes and clinical and nutritional intervention trials are either directly the result of Dr Hotamisligil’s discoveries, or inspired by the concepts emerging from them.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people worldwide die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
Additionally, obesity leads to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance, increasing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other undesirable conditions. Dr Hotamisligil’s discoveries may help lead to novel preventive and therapeutic treatments for metabolic diseases globally. “We hope that a better and more specific understanding of immunometabolic pathways and nutrients will open many new possibilities for maintaining good health and for prevention and treatment of the greatest global health threats,” said Dr Hotamisligil.
Danone’s commitment to health and nutrition
The Danone International Prize for Nutrition is awarded by Danone Institute International, a not-for-profit organisation created by Danone in 1991. Since the company was created, Danone has always maintained close contact with nutrition and health and demonstrated complete commitment to these activities. In 1991, Danone thus decided to promote public health by developing and spreading knowledge about nutrition, diet and health, and set up its first Institute. More than 20 years later, there are now 17 Danone Institutes worldwide, operating under the aegis of the Danone Institute International. To date, the institutes have supported more than nine hundred research projects, launched dozens of awareness programmes, and organised close to one hundred symposia.
Through Danone Institute International, the Danone International Prize for Nutrition is another way for the group to research health and nutrition and pursue its long-standing commitment in this field. The selection procedure for the prize is based on the Nobel Prize procedure and ensures the award is rigorous, objective and transparent. The Danone International Prize for Nutrition committee begins by bringing together a ‘nomination body’ of several hundred representatives from leading institutions promoting nutritional research worldwide. Each member of the committee is asked to propose one or two research scientists or teams as candidates. An independent international jury of seven to nine renowned scientists then chooses the prize winner, who receives €120,000.
“Research has consistently been a major pillar of the group in meeting its objective to provide consumers with products they can depend on for optimal flavour, nutritional benefits and safety, » said Franck Riboud, CEO of Danone. « Beyond our investments to promote research for our own products, it is also essential to support academic research in the field of nutrition, as this activity opens up new avenues for improving health in various populations. For this reason, we (…) consider the Danone International Prize for Nutrition, awarded for particularly innovative studies, to be a key initiative.”Photo: Jérôme Bargé: Danone, VP Health Governance
Raanan Shamir : President Danone Institute International
Ghökhan Hotamisligil : The Laureate
Frans Kok : Jury President