ISAPP welcomes Anisha Wijeyesekera, PhD, as new board member

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.


ISAPP board member Prof. Colin Hill receives Career Achievement Research Award from University College Cork

This month, ISAPP board member and former president Professor Colin Hill received a prestigious award from University College Cork (Ireland), where he has worked since 1992: The UCC Career Achievement Research Award. The prize honours leading researchers whose influential work has been recognized globally.

Hill’s research interests lie in molecular microbiology—specifically, issues around infection. His team was the first to discover lacticin 3147 and thuricin CD, two examples of a class of anti-microbials produced by bacteria that kill bacteria. He is also a leading scientist exploring the human virome: his team developed tools for gut virome analysis, performed phage therapy in vivo, and increased the number of known phage genomes by tens of thousands. Hill is the inventor on 23 patents, has published over 570 research articles, and to date, has secured over €25 million worth of research funding. His publications and citations put him in the top 1% of researchers worldwide.

Hill has served on the ISAPP board of directors since 2009, and was president from 2012-2015. He has supported ISAPP’s efforts to advance the science of probiotics through his scientific insights and leadership: he was lead author on the landmark ISAPP consensus paper on probiotics, participated in the recent ISAPP consensus panel on postbiotics, led numerous ISAPP discussion groups during the ISAPP annual meetings, and co-authored 10 ISAPP publications.

Prof. Todd Klaenhammer, who is a founding ISAPP board member, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and a retired professor from North Carolina State University, says of the award, “This is fantastic and a huge honor for Colin, one that is very well deserved. He has distinguished himself as a leading scientist, with some of the most brilliant work I have seen from anyone who has successfully crossed disciplines—as he has with his work on phage, probiotics, listeria, among others.”

ISAPP’s Executive Science Officer, Dr. May Ellen Sanders, says, “Colin is a rare combination of great scientist, effective leader and engaging person. During his tenure as president, ISAPP really made it onto the global map. It was a productive and really fun three years with him at ISAPP’s helm.”

Hill’s ISAPP colleagues know him for his exceptional curiosity and willingness to push boundaries, and wish him the best of success as he continues his groundbreaking scientific work.