June 1, 2017

Regents unanimously approve Nebraska Food for Health Center

File Photo

File Photo
Andrew Benson, professor of food science and technology at Nebraska, will be the first director of the Nebraska Food for Health Center.

The Nebraska Food for Health Center, a more than $40 million initiative to improve the lives of people around the world, was unanimously approved June 1 by the Board of Regents.

The multidisciplinary center led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln brings together strengths in agriculture and medicine from throughout the four-institution university system. It will help develop hybrid crops and foods to improve the quality of life of those affected by critical diseases including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and mental disorders.

To launch the center the Raikes Foundation of Seattle, co-founded by Nebraska native Jeff Raikes and his wife, Tricia, committed a $3 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation, which includes a $1 million challenge grant. In recognition of Jeff Raikes’ service as chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Foundation also made a $2 million gift in support of the center.

The center will initially focus on:

  • Bringing together a research team to tie gastrointestinal and biomedical research to agriculture, plant and animal breeding and genetics. In addition to faculty at Nebraska, the team includes faculty from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

  • Establishing a research program to develop foods with proven health benefits, particularly those that affect the human gut microbiome — the collection of all the beneficial and potentially harmful micro-organisms in the digestive system that can affect health and well-being.

  • Preparing a talented workforce for careers in food health, including researchers, food and health industry leaders and food innovation entrepreneurs.

Andrew Benson, the W.W. Marshall Jr. Professor of Biotechnology at Nebraska, will direct the center. The Food Innovation Center at Nebraska Innovation Campus will host the center’s office. No funds are required for a building; the center’s efforts extend across the university system.

For more on the Nebraska Food for Health Center, click here.

[VIDEO]: The Nebraska Food For Health Center is announced in 2016.