Scientific Research Project Title

Manipulation of the maturing gut microbiome to prevent asthma and allergy

Research Institution

Den selvejende institution Dansk BørneAstma Center


Pediatrics, microbiology


Phone: +45 3064 6465

Research leader

Jakob Stokholm

Senior researcher, medical doctor, PhD, born 1979

Project title

Early manipulation of the gut bacteria to prevent asthma and allergy

What is your project about?

In 700 Danish children followed closely from birth, we have shown that an immature bacterial composition at the age of 1 results in a significantly increased risk of developing asthma and allergy. In the Sapere Aude project, I want to add mechanical insight and causality to these results. Utilizing data from the same group of children, I want to identify important environmental and host factors that shape or interfere with a healthy bacterial maturation process. The genetic composition and functional properties of the protective bacterial compositions will be analyzed to identify specific beneficial bacterial communities as well as bioactive bacterial metabolites. The biological effects of these will be investigated in collaboration with New York University, where we plan a series of experiments in murine models.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

During medical school, I got acquainted with many disciplines, and here my interest in pediatrics and microbiology was founded. I started my research career as a PhD student at the pediatrics department at Næstved Hospital in a collaboration with Dansk BørneAstma Center. Ever since, I have studied how the early environmental exposures (especially microbiological) affects health and disease in children. We are faced with an exciting paradigm shift in relation to the perception of bacterial effects. Previously, bacteria have always been considered harmful, however, now we have gained understanding of their beneficial effects, which in the future will allow us to influence health through bacterial manipulation.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

Asthma and allergy are immune-mediated diseases that originate from a complex interplay between heritage and environmental factors in early life, however the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. Among the most important factors are probably the maturation and composition of the early bacterial communities of the gut. In which periods certain bacteria must be present, and how interaction with the children's developing immune system is taking place remains unknown. I will try to isolate the specific bacteria associated with protection against asthma and allergy and test them in model systems to determine causality. It may be challenging to get the beneficial bacteria to thrive and grow together, and furthermore results from murine models are not always directly transferrable to humans.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

My research has the perspective of developing a new method for preventing asthma and allergy by manipulation of the early life gut bacterial communities. The study aims at identifying how beneficial bacteria can be formulated into a disease preventing combination and which children may benefit from such a treatment. Asthma and allergy are the most common chronic diseases in childhood and frequent causes of medication and hospitalization. Prevention of these diseases will have a major impact on the individual families and for society as a whole.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

Being selected for the Sapere Aude program is first and foremost a personal recognition. Furthermore, it validates that the project has scientific merit, and that the suggested translational approach bridging clinical and basic research can lead to a unique synergy. The grant will allow for me to establish my own group and pursue my own research goals, as well as expanding my scientific network and establish myself as a leading international researcher in my field.

Background and personal life

I am 39 years old and live in Solrød Strand with my wife Gry, and our 3 children: Maj, Adam and Ellen. Most of my spare time are filled with all the joyful everyday events that always occur when having children. I like working with all kinds of new challenges as long as they stimulate my curiosity, whether at home or in research. I lived for a year in Brooklyn, New York with my family, while working at one of the world's leading microbiome groups. It was a great family adventure and an outstanding research experience.

City of current residence
Solrød Strand

High school
Tårnby Gymnasium