First CNLM Awards Illustrate Balanced Approach

The first grants awarded from the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory demonstrate the balanced approach that the University of Illinois units and funding partner Abbott were aiming for with this first-ever interdisciplinary cognition and nutrition research center.

The first grants awarded from the Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory demonstrate the balanced approach that the University of Illinois units and funding partner Abbott were aiming for with this first-ever interdisciplinary cognition and nutrition research center.

Thirteen proposals were selected to receive more than $12M in grant funding for interdisciplinary research projects investigating the links between nutrition, the brain, and cognition. The Center for Nutrition, Learning, and Memory (CNLM) was formed in late 2011 with a goal of fast-tracking research projects.

A “Grand Challenge” was announced in December as part of an annual competition for grant proposals focusing on “novel research that explores the development of nutritional compounds to enhance learning and memory at different stages within the lifespan involving cognition and nutrition.”

 CNLM is a partnership between Abbott Nutrition, a division of Abbott, and Illinois units, the Beckman Institute, the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Neuroscience Program. Neal Cohen is the Illinois Director of the Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, while Keith Garleb, Director of Global Discovery Research at Abbott Nutrition, is the Abbott Director of CNLM.

This first round of grants will fund a wide range of research, led by more than 40 investigators representing 16 different departments and units on campus, and joined by postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and staff. Cohen was impressed by the quality of the proposals submitted and selected, and by the funding from Abbott for this initial round of its five-year commitment to the Center.

 “We are very pleased with the support we’re getting from Abbott to move ahead aggressively, and also very pleased by the response we’ve gotten from the University of Illinois investigators,” Cohen said. “They have really embraced these opportunities and come through with fantastic proposals.”

In addition to a balanced approach to research, guiding principles of the Center include creating synergies between different kinds of efforts, and integrating Center-funded projects with current or proposed projects, such as those funded by National Institutes of Health grants.

The proposals selected represent a cross-section of departments and units at the University of Illinois, with collaborations stretching from the United States and Canada to Europe that include other universities, research centers, foundations, and Abbott Nutrition. Cohen said there will be more widespread collaborations, including international ones, in the second round, set to begin in July with proposal submission workshops for researchers.

“We’re moving everything much earlier in the year for Round 2 than we had in Round One,” Cohen said. “The new set of projects will begin in January. That means we are going to be soliciting proposals in the summer, early fall, with pre-proposals due on September 7th, which is less than five months from the start date of the Round One projects.”

This article is part of the Spring 2012 Synergy Issue, a publication of the Communications Office of the Beckman Institute.