Life After Discovery Themes

The Discovery Themes Initiative (DTI) is a ten-year, multi-million dollar faculty investment program designed to accelerate the university’s response to the global challenges of the 21st century. Attracting new tenured and tenure-track faculty to Ohio State under the Discovery Theme focus areas of energy and the environment, food production and security, and health and wellness will move the university from excellence to eminence in research and innovation, teaching and learning, and outreach and engagement. 

On May 30, faculty team leaders submitted final proposals under the themes of emerging and re-emerging diseases, materials for a sustainable world and foods to improve health. The Food to Improve Health teams developed big ideas with a focus on enhancing the quality of food and ensuring an adequate, affordable, and safe food supply for a global population. When asked about the importance of the Discovery Themes Initiative, Associate Provost Stephen Myers said, "The Discovery Themes Initiative provides Ohio State faculty teams with significant opportunities to recalibrate the University’s responses to the compelling challenges of the 21st century. Much of the innovation will occur as a result of faculty interaction at the intersection of the three Themes areas.  In that regard, there is no question that the human diet will play a pivotal role in shaping how society addresses the determinants of health and wellness in the future."

There were 11 proposals submitted in the Food to Improve Health focus area. Below are brief overviews from those proposals:

Belury M. "The Ohio State University Consortium of Nutrition, Energetics and Metabolism: Developing a World-Class Research Collaborative Dedicated to Energy Balance and Metabolic Disorders as It Relates to Human Health."
Perhaps the most basic factor affecting survival of all animals is sufficient intake of food to meet the energy needs of the organism. Obesity is an example of a condition of energy imbalance that is a worldwide pandemic. Yet, the scientific measurements of energetics or the study of energy balance, e.g., energy intake or energy expenditure, are not simple. Our goal is to recruit and support interdisciplinary teams of top-tier scholars dedicated to address the root causes and translational sciences to prevent and cure metabolic-related disorders.
Griffen A. "Biggest Unmet Healthcare Need in Ohio’s Children: a Transformational Solution."
Tooth decay, the biggest unmet healthcare need of Ohio’s children, disproportionately afflicts low-income children and impacts quality of life for children globally. Efforts to prevent severe disease have largely failed, and public expenditures mainly go to filling and removing damaged teeth. Because severe tooth decay is caused by sugar consumption behaviors that are difficult to change, effective disease prevention will require uncovering the complex drivers of damaging food consumption, and using this knowledge to develop solutions at the level of the food supply, child, family, community, society and health care systems. This will not only solve a pressing public health problem, but will provide a model approach for addressing more complex food driven diseases such as obesity.

Heldman D. “Sustainability of a Safe and Health Enhancing Food Supply.”
Meeting the caloric and nutrition needs of nine billion people by 2050 with current resources of the planet is the compelling challenge. Responding to this challenge will require collaborations that rarely occur. In addition to finding new and more efficient ways to produce more raw food materials, more efficient and effective approaches to delivering the constituents of the raw materials to meet the nutrition needs of the human population must be identified. The approach must also address the economic and social changes associated with increased competition for energy and water resources.

Hoy C. "Resilient, Sustainable and Global Food Security for Health."
The future of humanity depends upon resilient food systems that achieve food security to assure the health and well-being of a growing population despite unprecedented environmental change and constraints. Three critical dimensions of this challenge are: 1) food system technologies and enterprises must function within agroecological capacities and limits; 2) economic gain and social justice must be balanced to assure healthy food for all; and 3) the physical design and social organization of food systems must be locally adapted, globally interconnected, and equally grounded in culture, technology and science.

Lee K. "Food for Health in a Sustainable World."
Sustaining 9 billion healthy people by 2050 requires OSU scholarly intervention now. Simply boosting production falls short as we produce enough food now but fail to get it to those in need. We must optimize the compelling potential of food in reducing or reversing runaway health care costs. Historically independent fields of food science, health, agriculture, public policy and consumer education must integrate to create a food system with both security and health outcomes. OSU’s unique ag-medical-social partnership can provide compelling research to transform a public and private food system that ensures plentiful and healthy food for all.

Member Spotlight 

Does green tea ward off weight gain? Dr. Richard Bruno, Ph.D., R.D. and Associate Professor of Human Nutrition, hopes to find out. Green tea has always been touted to have medicinal properties, but can it be proved? Bruno’s preliminary lab tests in mice showed lower weights, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and less signs of fatty liver disease. Currently, Dr. Bruno, along with Drs. Yael Vodovotz and Mark Failla, is working on a new study called “Green tea confections for managing postprandial hyperglycemia-induced vascular endothelial dysfunction,” funded by a 2013 Food Innovation Center seed grant.
Read more.

Check out the FIC Blog!

Funding News

ProteoSense LLC, external partner of the Food Innovation Center and a Columbus-based spinout of Ohio State, is the most recent recipient of an investment from the $1 million Technology Concept Fund LLC and a $100,000 Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-up Fund grant. ProteoSense is developing a unique sensor technology invented by Ohio State College of Engineering and College of Medicine researchers to detect proteins that are fundamental markers of pathogens. The firm is focusing initially on detecting serious threats to food safety in fresh produce, such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria. Read more.
LeJeune J. "Food, Ecosystems, and Health."
Food Security is a universally recognized Grand Challenge of the 21st Century. The growing world population requires increased food production. Animal and plant pests and diseases are barriers to yield and productivity. Contamination of food with pathogens is a cause of considerable food waste and human illnesses and death worldwide. Human health in intimately intertwined with the health of animals, the safety of the plant-based foods we consume, and the condition of the environment where food is produced. To ensure a future with a sufficient, sustainable, and resilient food production system and alleviate the food security threat solutions to these challenges must involve considerations of the complex interactions of the health of animals, plants, the environment and people.
Schwartz S. “Personalized food and nutritional metabolic profiling to improve health.”
Cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, various cancers and other chronic diseases are approaching epidemic status in developed and developing nations. Diet and nutrition impact risk and severity of these diseases. Epidemiologic and clinical studies show individual variation in response to diet interventions, suggesting important diet and genetic interactions. The lack of accurate biomarkers indicative of individual metabolic responses to specific foods and diets prevents health care professionals from providing individuals with scientifically sound, personalized dietary recommendations. The integration of individual metabolomics data with -omic data from others will facilitate development of efficacious individualized dietary strategies to enhance personal health.
Vodovotz Y. "Roots of Health: Plants for Food and Healthy Living."
Under the world’s current food system, most people either do not or cannot eat the type of foods that mitigate obesity, malnutrition, and noncommunicable diseases. Our existing agricultural system and practice lack diversity of plants rich in nutrients and bioactives that are an essential component of health promotion and disease prevention through foods. Current crop selection and food formulation do not prioritize consumer wellness, and existing food policy fails to provide sufficient incentives for consumers to make healthy food choices.

Wang H. "Safe and Healthy food Production for a Sustainable Ecosystem."
Antibiotics are used in agriculture and aquaculture to improve productivity, such practice has contributed to wide development and dissemination of antibiotic resistance (AR), which has major public health, social and economic impact. The long-term goal of this team is to reduce AR in the food chain from farm to fork and to improve food safety, production and public health in the global ecosystem through innovative research and integrated education, outreach and extension. This proposal aims at enhancing the infrastructure and existing strength at OSU to tackle the mega challenge.
Yousef A. “Natural Antimicrobials for Safer Food and Treatment of Infectious Agents.”
Despite the advancement in science and technology, food-transmitted diseases remain a threat to the well-being of humanity. The hazard of disease transmission by food is rising as microbes evolve due to changes in climate, agricultural practices, and food manufacturing and processing methods. Conventional antimicrobial agents designed to control these microbes are becoming less effective; this applies equally to preservatives used in food and antibiotics used in treating infectious agents. Thus, new natural and potent antimicrobial agents, with potential new mechanism of action and lower side effects, as well as new biological control methods, are urgently needed.

(Not listed: Kathy Waller)
One of the guiding principles of the Discovery Themes is to “embrace a ‘One University’ perspective.” Many new connections were made during the writing phase of this proposal. Food to Improve Health faculty team leader Ann Griffen said, "Many small, compelling stories emerged during our meetings. Perhaps my favorite is how the spark of ideas traveled around campus from person to person, drawing people who had never considered working together into a cross-disciplinary group with a purpose. We found that we had for the first time anywhere assembled expertise to comprehensively address a stubborn public health problem.  It was a Buckeye moment, because this is the only institution in the USA with a College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a College of Dentistry, and a top tier Department of Psychology. The group was further enriched from many sources on campus including the College of Social Work, School of Public Policy, College of Public Health, and Nationwide Children's Hospital."

The Discovery Themes proposals are currently being reviewed by external and internal participants. Discovery Theme leaders have said that two to three proposals per theme area will be selected and awarded. Criteria for successful proposals include:
  • Degree to which collaboration is established across disciplinary areas.
  • Significance of the Challenge is such that it warrants strategic action and requires transformational solutions.
  • Potential for the Big Idea to build on existing OSU strengths.
  • Potential of proposed new faculty to fill gaps critical to the Big Idea.
  • Degree to which the Big Idea leverages extramural support from industry, foundations, federal and state government.
  • Capacity of the Team to implement and sustain the Big Idea.
Read about the rest of the criteria for successful proposals here. Panel Reviewers will meet and interview faculty team leaders on July 31, 2014. The review process will be finalized by late summer 2014. Look for an announcement in August!

The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Who Owns It?


On May 15, Health Science Frontiers hosted an panel discussion called The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Who Owns It? at WOSU@COSI. Panelists included health, education and risk communication experts (including two FIC members):
  • Ihuoma U. Eneli, MD, medical director of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Healthy Weight & Nutrition
  • Daniel Remley, MSPH, PhD, assistant professor, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University 
  • Jacqueline Broderick-Patton MA, RN, wellness initiative coordinator,Columbus City Schools
  • Autumn Trombetta, MS, RD, LD, chronic disease prevention, Columbus Public Health
  • Moderator: Mandie Trimble, WOSUNPR News
Because nearly one third of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens are either overweight or obese, Ohio has the 14th highest obesity rate in the country among children 10-17 years old.  The chosen panelists discussed the reasons that have led to high obesity rates as well as solutions to curb statistics.

You can view the televised broadcast of The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Who Owns It? here.

Upcoming Events

Cook & Connect at The Kitchen 
Time: August 7, 2014 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Location: The Kitchen, 231 E. Livingston Ave., Columbus, OH 43215
Cost: $20.00 per person, advance reservations required
Join us for a fun night of collaborative cooking and networking at The Kitchen. Attendees will work in teams to prepare a four-course meal with a focus on foods for health. Our menu that evening will be created by Jim Warner, culinary expert and Program Director of Nutrition Services at The Ohio State University Medical Center. You are sure to laugh a lot, enjoy some delicious food, meet some great people, and learn something along the way! Learn More

Save the Date!
Time: November 20, 2014
Location: The Blackwell Inn & Conference Center, 2110 Tuttle Park Pl, Columbus, OH 43210
The Food Innovation Center will host a childhood nutrition seminar at the Blackwell Inn and Conference Center on November 20, 2014. The program will feature innovative practices across the food environment. The event is still in development so stay tuned for more details!

Support the Food Innovation Center

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