Changing Lives Through Groundbreaking Science

Using robust scientific and lay review, in the 2024 cycle, the GI Research Foundation awarded $600,000 to eight investigators at the University of Chicago for novel research projects.

2024 Innovation Awards

Cambrian Liu, PhD

Building Experimental Tools to Assess the Gut Microbiome’s Effects on Gastrointestinal Regeneration

Cambrian Liu, PhD

Regenerative medicine is the ability to regenerate and repair diseased organs and is the dream of modern medicine.  Regenerative therapies can take many forms – growing new organs in the lab, injecting stem cells at the sites of injury, or engineering molecular bandages – yet there is no consensus on the types of biological signals or cellular targets that should be leveraged to promote regenerative capacity.


The intestinal microbiome can be modulated to promote regeneration throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Modifying the microbiome to imbue it with pro-healing properties can be performed non-invasively, while providing a “long reach” of effects through the diverse and fundamental roles that these microbes play in ensuring optimal health.


    Develop multiple tools to study:

    • how individual cells make decisions about their developmental paths and eventual roles within an organism and
    • the effects of different types of microbes and microbiome-associated metabolites on the regenerative process, resolved at the level of individual stem cells, throughout the gastrointestinal system.

    If a regeneration-promoting microbial community could be found, this could be used to repair damaged tissue or prevent tissue damage in the first place.  This would impact ongoing treatment for debilitating gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic liver disease, and pancreatitis, thus improving patient outcomes.

    “These grants focus on research that advances the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and cure of digestive diseases. Additionally, the goals of the grants program include to:

    • Help build the field by funding emerging scientific leaders
    • Provide seed funding for innovative ideas that, if successful, could result in larger grants from funders such as the National Institutes of Health
    • Fund bold research ideas that might have risk of failure but high reward for success, as these projects have difficulty securing funding elsewhere

    Thank you to our grant review committee members and scientific advisors who read and scored proposals with a focus on ensuring the recommended projects meet our mission and are centered on advancing patient care and outcomes.”

    Biana Lanson, MD

    Vice President of Research Grantmaking, GI Research Foundation