CA&ES scientists are among the winners of Chancellor’s Innovation Awards

A team of scientists affiliated with the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute and entomology professor Bruce Hammock are among the recipients of the 2020 Chancellor’s Innovation Awards, which recognize faculty, project teams and community partners for their work, dedication and success in improving the lives of others and addressing the needs of society.

Innovators of the Year, from left: Top row — Bruce German, Daniela Barile and Mark Underwood. Bottom row — David Mills, Carlito Lebrilla and Jennifer Smilowitz.
Innovators of the Year, from left: Top row — Bruce German, Daniela Barile and Mark Underwood. Bottom row — David Mills, Carlito Lebrilla and Jennifer Smilowitz.


The Foods for Health team includes Daniela Barile, Bruce German, Carlito Lebrilla, David Mills, Jennifer Smilowitz and Mark Underwood. Faculty members Barile, German, Mills and associate director Smilowitz are researchers in the Department of Food Science and Technology. They have received one of two “Innovator of the Year” awards.

Hammock is a distinguished professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology who is noted for cross-disciplinary research throughout the campus. He has received a “Lifetime Achievement in Innovation” award.

“Research universities like UC Davis play a critical role in advancing innovative solutions for the global community that not only stimulate our economy but create a better quality of life,” said Chancellor Gary May. “The recipients of this year’s awards demonstrate the impact of reaching beyond what is expected to deliver game-changing innovations that address some of the world’s most critical issues.”

Advancing infant health earns team innovator distinction

For more than a decade, the Foods for Health team has been studying the key role that breast milk plays in shaping the development of a healthy intestinal tract. Their research has shown how milk components interact with a specific type of bacteria to protect human infants from intestinal inflammation. They developed a novel probiotic to enhance the health of premature and full-term infants.

The team also found that the combination of antibiotics, C-section births and infant formula have largely eliminated the bacterium that co-evolved with humans from modern human populations. As a result, most infants today, even when breastfed, start life with disrupted intestinal microbiota. The implications of that disruption are now emerging from the epidemiologic literature. Disrupted intestinal microbiota is linked to a long list of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Members of the research team secured a series of patents for their work with support from UC Davis’ Innovation and Technology Commercialization office and then launched a spin-off company, Evolve BioSystems Inc., in 2012 to develop activated probiotic and prebiotic products. To date, Evolve BioSystems introduced its first product, Evivo, the only baby probiotic that contains activated B. infantis EVC001, to the market. The company is currently conducting a clinical study with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to determine the impact of the probiotic on infants with severe acute malnutrition in Bangladesh.

Learn more about the Foods for Health Institute here.


Hammock feted for lifetime achievement in innovation

Entomologist Bruce Hammock, who also holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, is being honored with the Lifetime Achievement in Innovation award. This award recognizes researchers whose career accomplishments include innovations leading to a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who are an inspiring influence for other innovators. 

Bruce Hammock

Hammock has distinguished himself nationally and internationally in multiple areas. He has authored or co-authored more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and holds more than 95 patents in agriculture, environmental science and medicinal chemistry.

Hammock founded the field of environmental immunoassay using antibodies and biosensors to monitor food and environmental safety, and human exposure to pesticides. His laboratory developed the first recombinant virus for insect control. He discovered a human enzyme involved in inflammation, blood pressure and pain. This discovery led to a new drug now in human trials for neuropathic pain, as well as a version in development for treating painful conditions in companion animals. His pioneering work on novel targets to combat inflammation has far-reaching applications, not only in pain, but also in other diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Hammock is the CEO and founder of EicOsis, a therapeutics company aiming to provide a new analgesic solution for pain management. The company received a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2019 to support human clinical trials of a novel compound for the treatment of pain in preclinical animal studies.

View a longer version of this news release to learn more about Hammock and the Foods for Health team, as well as the other chancellor’s innovators, here. The awards program is managed by the UC Davis Office of Research.