EPFL Dedicated to Research on the Challenges of Nutrition

© Thinkstock

© Thinkstock

Facing the lack of scientifically based evidence in the field of nutrition, a university and a foundation unite forces in the areas of research and public outreach.

EPFL and the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation – a Swiss philanthropic foundation – are pooling their strength and knowledge in the field of metabolism. With a total engagement of CHF 9.5 M, this new partnership will enable EPFL to reinforce its position in the area of metabolic issues. Two axes underpin this partnership. The first axis will focus on research in metabolism and nutrition, and the second on dissemination of nutrition and health, scientifically validated information to the public.

A new research chair in “Metabolism in the context of nutrition, human health and disease” will open at EPFL in 2016 in partnership with the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation. To better document recommendations on food it is necessary to understand the mechanisms involved in food absorption on a cellular level. The holder of the new “Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Chair” – supported by the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation – will be tasked with the development of an independent and dynamic research program and with seeking a deeper understanding of integrative (patho) physiological mechanisms contributing to the development of complex diseases, with as ultimate goal the development of preventive (nutritional) and therapeutic approaches.

In addition to the holder of the Chair, scientists will be recruited by means of a call for proposals addressed to a large audience from across institutions and disciplines. Funding will encourage projects that involve EPFL research groups or collaborations between EPFL scientists and researchers worldwide.

Public Outreach

Beyond fundamental research, the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation will also support the dissemination of the results to the general public through several large scale dissemination campaigns with the objective of being a global scientifically-validated reference on the issue of nutrition. This answers a real need in terms of public awareness. Active groups in society, including scientists and non-scientists, have been vociferous in warning us about the importance and risks of food – the negative impact of pesticides, for instance. While this has been instrumental and overall very beneficial in triggering a gradual change in the collective mentality, it has also attracted its share of unfounded beliefs and pseudo-scientific research. The proliferation of information and the inability to evaluate whether it is scientifically founded have created unease among the population. Society is therefore in serious need of scientifically valid information on the impact of nutrition on human health.

“In an environment in which excess weight and obesity have become major public health problems, the goal of the foundation’s engagement is both preventive and educational,” says Kristian Jebsen, President of the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation. “We would like to provide the media and the teaching system with strictly scientifically validated data and tools that will enable each individual to take conscious decisions when purchasing products, becoming aware of the negative impact many of them have on our metabolism in order to preserve our health.”

The knowledge will also be disseminated to medical and paramedical professionals and to the public using modern tools including MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The first large event in the context of this partnership will be a symposium in autumn 2017 aimed at scientists, health professionals, actors from the food-processing industry and the general public.

Author: Stéphanie Milliquet

Source: EPFL