Dr. Meghan Azad, Manitoba co-lead for the CHILD Cohort Study (CHILD), has been awarded a $6.5 million grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lead an international consortium that will study global differences in breastmilk and establish a biorepository of human milk samples.
As Director of the new International Milk Composition (IMiC) Consortium, Dr. Azad will bring together five research groups studying maternal nutrition and infant growth in Tanzania, Pakistan, Nepal, Burkina Faso and Canada.
“This project will help us learn about how human milk helps human babies develop and grow up healthy,” she told CBC News.
Dr. Azad is an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba, a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease, and a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM).
During the next three years, IMiC researchers will analyze samples of breast milk from 1,200 mother-infant pairs. Their aim is to understand the components of human milk that influence infant growth and resilience in order to inform nutrition recommendations and interventions for moms and babies.
Dr. Azad said the grant will also allow her to continue analyzing the breastmilk samples collected in CHILD, with the goal of uncovering the role of maternal nutrition, infant feeding and human milk composition in the development and prevention of asthma, allergies, obesity and diabetes.