Coca-Cola recently presented the first in a new series of awards for young scientists honoring the legacy of Dr. Alex Malaspina, a long-time Coca-Cola Scientific & Regulatory Affairs leader and founder of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). 

The inaugural ILSI Malaspina International Scholars Travel Awards were presented to 10 young scientists from around the world last month at the 2015 ILSI Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Dr. Malaspina founded ILSI in 1978 as a nonprofit organization to advance scientific understanding of nutrition, food safety, toxicology, risk assessment and the environment. He envisioned prominent researchers from industry, government and academia leading the organization, guiding its work to conduct research, harmonizing the use of science and encouraging scientific dialogue. 

He started ILSI to spearhead an effort to unite the food industry. Before retiring as president of ILSI in 2001, Dr. Malaspina wanted to ensure a good endowment was in place to fund a research foundation to support the ILSI mission.

Coca-Cola senior leaders were instrumental in supporting Dr. Malaspina as he established a $22 million endowment for the foundation. More than 35 years later, ILSI is still delivering on its promise. It is now a truly global organization, with 15 regional branches that help ensure food safety and nutrition science advancement in various regions around the world.

To honor Dr. Malaspina’s passion for nurturing promising scientific talent, Coca-Cola established the Malaspina International Scholars Travel Award. For the inaugural awards, individual ILSI branches submitted nominations of qualified academic scientists in their regions.  

Malaspina Scholars_604_Malaspina and Hays

A selection committee comprised of five members of the ILSI Board of Trustees and Dr. Arti Arora from Coca-Cola, reviewed the nominations.

At a special dinner event hosted by Coca-Cola, Dr. Alex Malaspina personally recognized each of the promising young scientists. Dr. Malaspina sees the awards as a “step in not only educating young scientists, but also providing them with the impulse to go back to their own country and start doing innovative, charitable work.”

The awards support travel for early-career, academic scientists – in the areas of nutrition, food safety, toxicology, risk assessment or the environment – to the ILSI Annual Meeting, a scientific forum held each January.

The 10 honorees were:

  • Bani Tamber Aeri, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Delhi, India
  • Clinton Allred, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition & Food Science, Texas A&M University, U.S.
  • Marisa Armeno, M.D., Pediatrician in the Nutrition Department, National Pediatric Hospital, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Graham Finlaynson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Leeds, U.K.
  • Benjamin Kumah Mintah, M.Sc., Food Safety Educator, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana, Ghana
  • Siti Muslimatun, Ph.D., Faculty Member and Researcher, The Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences, Indonesia
  • Yukiko Nakanishi, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Health and Nutrition, University of Human Arts and Sciences, Japan
  • Zvonimir Šatalić, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, University of Zagreb, Croatia
  • Anderson de Souza Sant’Ana, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science, University of Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Krista Varady, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology & Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago, U.S.
The Malaspina scholars actively participated in the scientific sessions at the ILSI Annual Meeting, presented their research, and met with academic, government and industry researchers from around the world. They were also paired with mentors from the ILSI Board of Trustees, who introduced them to the organization. ILSI will maintain contact with the awardees following the annual meeting and encourage them to participate actively in future ILSI activities at the regional level.

Dr. Wamwari Waichungo, vice president, Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, said, “It was a privilege to establish these awards and host this event honoring Dr. Malaspina and his ILSI legacy.”