UNC Nutrition Research Institute

Impact Report 2014-15

Steve H. Zeisel, institute director, addressing faculty and staff in his lab.

In the past year scientists at the Nutrition Research Institute have made significant advances in our understanding of the roles genetics and nutrition play in determining our individual susceptibility and resistance to disease. This is our bold mission: to discover the mechanisms by which diet can prevent or lessen the negative effects of chronic diseases and aging, and improve human development, even prior to conception.

We are achieving these goals thanks to your generosity. Because of your support, we are making exciting progress. For instance, this year we learned that while Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are more prevalent in some U.S. populations than previously thought, there may be nutritional interventions to mitigate the risks. We now know that maternal nutrition at conception plays a significant role in memory function throughout the child’s life. And we made greater strides than ever in understanding the relationship between our gut microbiome and a range of health conditions.

The NRI was represented across the globe by our esteemed faculty who were invited to speak at scientific conferences on such topics as nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics, cognitive development, cardiovascular disease, and epigenetics.

Many of our scientists competed successfully for grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies—grants that are awarded only to the most promising applicants. Your contributions, added to these essential government funds are what made it possible for us to test ground-breaking hypotheses and move toward clinical trials with some studies.

With progress there is growth. Recently, the NRI successfully incubated two companies that have spun out of the university and are in the early stages of capitalization here in Kannapolis. In the coming year we will hire several more senior scientists. We employ students, lab technicians and postdoctoral trainees from colleges and universities near and far. We take seriously our responsibility to bolster our local economy.

On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Nutrition Research Institute, I send sincere gratitude for the confidence you have placed in us and demonstrated through your gifts and other forms of support. I am certain that what we are discovering today at the NRI will dramatically improve our ability to personalize recommendations for better nutrition, and that soon this will allow you to target what you should eat based on your individual metabolism and health needs.

Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D.

Heather Zhao, research technician, preparing samples for choline analysis.

The Nutrition Research Institute is

• a nonprofit center for the study of nutrigenetics, a science that explores the interactions
of our genes and the nutrients we consume

• replacing the outdated one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition with cutting-edge
discoveries of unique differences in DNA and metabolism

• located on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis with 75 staff members,
including 14 principal investigators

• a unit of UNC Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university and a global higher
education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service

• funded through research grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the
National Science Foundation and a variety of