Inaugural Sanders Award for Advancing Biotic Science Goes to Argentinian Researcher who leads YOGURITO program

The ISAPP board of directors is pleased to share that the winner of the inaugural Sanders Award for Advancing Biotic Science is Dr. Maria Pía Taranto PhD, a researcher at the Center of Reference for Lactobacilli at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CERELA-CONICET) in Argentina.

Dr. Taranto leads the YOGURITO program, established in 2010, which delivers yogurt and other foods enriched with a probiotic to more than 200,000 lower income schoolchildren through a collaboration between scientists, government, industry, and the local community. For this program, Dr. Taranto and colleagues initially assessed candidate strains and selected L. rhamnosus CRL1505, and then led several preclinical and clinical studies demonstrating how it improves immune function. She and her team then developed the partnerships needed to deliver the foods (yogurt, chocolate milk, fresh cheese, and dehydrated powder) free of charge to children in public schools. Dr. Taranto has showed remarkable tenacity and resourcefulness to lead and maintain this program for over a decade in an environment where funding is limited and irregular and where inflation is high. Today the program has a tangible impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children per year who may otherwise be at risk of malnutrition.

Dr. Taranto has advanced the biotics field by translating the science and demonstrating real-world impact, using probiotics as a tool to support health in communities with limited resources. In the future she hopes to be able to measure the effects of the probiotic intervention on health and academic outcomes in the children.

After receiving her undergraduate degree in biochemistry and her PhD from National University of Tucuman, Dr. Taranto came to work as a researcher at CERELA-CONICET in 2001. Besides the YOGURITO program, she is involved in research on metabolic and technological aspects of lactic acid bacteria, characterizing new strains for future applications such as in metabolic diseases.

The Sanders Award for Advancing Biotic Science was established in 2023 thanks to the generous contributions of ISAPP community members, to honor the legacy of ISAPP’s former Executive Science Officer, Mary Ellen Sanders PhD. This annual award recognizes someone who has helped advance the biotics field, including probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics and fermented foods. This year’s committee, composed of ISAPP board members, an industry member representative and Dr. Sanders, selected Dr. Taranto from among the many deserving nominees. Dr. Taranto will receive a cash award and will speak about her work at the ISAPP annual meeting in July, 2024.