April 15, 2024

Mariana Byndloss receives FASEB Excellence in Science Award

The annual awards highlight outstanding achievements by women in the biological sciences.

Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD (photo by Erin O. Smith)

Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, has received a 2024 Excellence in Science Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States.

The awards recognize “female scientists demonstrating not only excellence and innovation in their research fields, but exemplary leadership and mentorship as well,” FASEB said in a press release. Scientists at three different career stages — established, mid-career and early-career — are selected for the annual honor, now in its 35th year. Byndloss received the Early-Career Investigator Award.

“I am proud and thankful to receive the Excellence in Science Award,” Byndloss said. “It is overwhelming to realize that my peers believe that my work has had a significant impact on the biological sciences, and it gives me motivation to continue my path of scientific discovery and mentoring the next generation of diverse scientists.

“This award is also a recognition of the support I have received from my previous mentors, who have taught me all that I know, and the work performed by my talented trainees, whose dedication fuels the outstanding scientific discoveries coming from my lab.”

Byndloss, who joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2018, studies the links between the gut microbiota (the microorganisms that reside in the intestines), host metabolism and disease. She and her team are exploring how the host and microbiota work together to promote health, and what happens when environmental factors like diet, antibiotics and inflammation disrupt the microbiota and increase risk for colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, childhood obesity and other disorders.

In a recent study in Cell Host & Microbe, Byndloss and her team demonstrated that the gut microbiota produce a compound that protects against obesity.

“This discovery was led by an exceptional graduate student, Catie Shelton,” Byndloss said. “I was excited and in disbelief when she showed me the results that demonstrated that antibiotic-induced obesity in young mice could be prevented by giving them this metabolite.”

The findings offer the intriguing possibility that providing beneficial probiotic bacteria or the compound they produce could help prevent antibiotic-associated childhood obesity.

Last year, Byndloss was selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as one of the first Freeman Hrabowski Scholars. The program aims to maximize the impact of U.S. science by building a diverse scientific workforce. Each scholar receives up to $8.6 million over a 10-year period to support their research, leadership and mentorship.

Byndloss also was chosen as one of eight Burroughs Wellcome Fund 2023 Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, a program that provides funding for early-career investigators to pursue higher-risk research projects.

Byndloss earned her DVM and PhD from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in her native Brazil and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, Davis before joining the Vanderbilt faculty. She is co-director of the Vanderbilt Microbiome Innovation Center, a campuswide effort to advance microbiome/microbiota research, therapy, education and policy.