ISAPP’s Inaugural Early Career Researcher Prize Awarded to Two Rising Star Probiotic Scientists

This year, ISAPP established a prize for early career researchers with the goal of recognizing individuals who contribute substantial research findings in the fields of probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics and fermented foods. The criteria for this award included evidence of impact through citizenship, general outreach and citations, as well as a dissertation with novel contributions that advance the field.

The ISAPP board is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Early Career Researcher prize for 2021: Irina Spacova, University of Antwerp, Belgium, and Car Reen Kok, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, USA. The winners each receive a cash award and the opportunity to speak at a future in-person ISAPP meeting.

Irina Spacova, co-recipient of the ISAPP 2021 Early Career Researcher Prize

Irina earned her joint PhD degree in Bioscience Engineering from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, in 2018. In Irina’s words, “My passion is unraveling the potential of locally applied probiotics against viral and other respiratory diseases.” Her study of topically applied probiotics may lead to an effective, innovative probiotic delivery system, providing a means to expand probiotics to new body sites and novel health endpoints.


Car Reen Kok, co-recipient of the ISAPP 2021 Early Career Researcher Prize

Car Reen’s education includes a BSc in biochemistry and MS in Food Science, both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she now is working on her PhD. Her research focuses on untangling factors leading to responsiveness or non-responsiveness to prebiotic interventions through metagenomics readouts. This line of research has great potential to personalize prebiotics, thereby increasing their effectiveness.

Prof. Glenn Gibson brought the idea for this award to his fellow ISAPP board members and led its establishment. Mary Ellen, ISAPP’s Executive Science Officer, says: “During a brainstorming session with the board, Glenn proposed that ISAPP start an annual award given to early career researchers to recognize their accomplishments in the probiotic, prebiotic and related fields. He compiled all the details and chaired the first selection committee – in short, he made it happen. This really shows who Glenn is – someone who always wants to encourage and reward others for a job well done.”

Glenn Gibson’s term on the ISAPP board comes to an end in June, 2021. In his honor, henceforth, the name of this annual prize will be the Glenn Gibson Early Career Researcher Prize.

The 2022 competition will open on December 1, 2021, with a deadline of February 28, 2022. Please visit the Students’ section of the ISAPP website after the opening date for more details.