As of the June, 2021 virtual annual meeting, the ISAPP board of directors is pleased to welcome a new member-at-large: Anisha Wijeyesekera, PhD – Lecturer in Human Microbiome, Diet & Health in the Food Microbial Sciences Unit, Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, UK. Wijeyesekera is an early career researcher with expertise in metabolic profiling for functional assessment of the gut microbiota, particularly in response to prebiotics and probiotics. Her research focus rounds out the board members’ collective leadership in the fields of probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, fermented foods and postbiotics.
Wijeyesekera’s research focuses on applying an integrated systems biology approach, exploiting analytical technologies to characterise molecular phenotypes and better understand the impact of genes, lifestyle and environmental factors (including diet and the microbiome) on human health. The ultimate goal of her research is to use this information to tailor nutritional or other interventions (such as prebiotics and probiotics) to improve health outcomes. She has applied these technologies in a range of human studies from examining the metabolome and microbiome in developing infants, to identifying metabolic signatures associated with infant disease outcomes and nutritional interventions, as well as mining metabolite patterns associated with diet and ageing.
In addition to this expertise, Wijeyesekera brings to the ISAPP board extensive experience communicating with stakeholders including the general public, schoolchildren, patients as well as world-leading researchers. She has made important links with researchers worldwide, leading to new initiatives and research collaborations. For example, she helped move the Yoba for Life probiotic programme forward, by winning grant funding to conduct a pilot study in Ugandan school children to assess the impact of probiotic dietary intervention on metabolic and microbial profile. (In this blog post, read more about how the programme encourages locally produced probiotic yogurt.)
Wijeyesekera received a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Durham, an MSc in Bioinformatics from the University of Exeter and a PhD in Chemistry from Imperial College London. Following postdoctoral research, she worked as a Research Manager in the Division of Computational and Systems Medicine at Imperial College London, UK before joining the Food Microbial Sciences Unit at the University of Reading, UK in 2016.