Dr. Mohammad Arifuzzaman Wins 2024 Tri-Institutional Breakout Award

Dr. Arifuzzaman

Dr. Mohammad Arifuzzaman, a postdoctoral associate in the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, part of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been awarded a 2024 Tri-Institutional Breakout Award for Junior Investigators.

Weill Cornell Medicine, The Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center present the awards annually, recognizing exceptional investigators for their remarkable research achievements, impactful findings and high potential for success as independent investigators. The winners, at least one from each institution, receive a $25,000 unrestricted prize.

“I’m honored by this recognition of my research and thankful for the recommendation and support from my supervisor and mentor, Dr. David Artis,” said Dr. Arifuzzaman, who also works in the Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation. “This award, and those who established it, inspire the whole postdoctoral community to do their best.”

Dr. Arifuzzaman’s research focuses on how nutrition and gut microbiota affect immunity. Specifically, he investigates interactions between dietary fiber, small molecules produced by microbiota—known as microbial metabolites—and immune cells, and how these interactions affect inflammatory responses in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergy and parasitic infection. 

Dr. Artis and Dr. Arifuzzaman

Dr. Arifuzzaman with Dr. David Artis.

“I am thrilled that Dr Arifuzzaman is being honored with the Tri-I Breakout Prize this year,” said Dr. David Artis, director of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in IBD and the Friedman Center for Nutrition and Inflammation. “This achievement is the product of his innovative thinking and scientific approaches to unraveling the molecular mechanisms that control host-microbiota interactions in human health and disease. The impact of his work has far-reaching implications for our understanding of immunity to infection, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer.”

Dr. Artis nominated Dr. Arifuzzaman in recognition of his innovative work, including numerous studies published in high-impact journals. In a Nature paper from November 2022, lead author Dr. Arifuzzaman and colleagues discovered that the dietary fiber inulin increased the production of certain bile acids by specific groups of gut bacteria, resulting in an immune response called type 2 inflammation which promotes allergy. However, this allergy-associated response was protective against intestinal infections caused by parasitic worms, called helminths.

According to the World Health Organization, helminth infections are among the most common worldwide, affecting 24% of the world’s population, especially those living in tropical countries with limited access to clean water and sanitation. “I’m intrigued that my work may one day help individuals affected by helminth infections, which can be chronic and are a main cause of malnutrition,” he said.

Dr. Arifuzzaman was also lead author of a study published in March 2024 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. He and his colleagues discovered that bile acids produced by microbiota dictated whether immune cells called type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) increased inflammation or protected against it in a mouse model of intestinal inflammation. They found that inulin fiber promoted inflammatory ILC2s and increased disease severity in a mouse model of IBD via specific bile acids. This finding was unexpected—previously, inulin was thought to have protective, anti-inflammatory effects in IBD. Their findings demonstrated the complexity of the relationship between diet, microbiota and immune cells, and advanced understandings relevant to developing precision nutrition strategies for treating inflammatory diseases. 


Dr. Hugh Hemmings, senior associate dean for research, presented the award to Dr. Arifuzzaman at the event on June 14.

Dr. Artis’ nomination also recognizes Dr. Arifuzzaman’s role as principal investigator on two grants supporting his research: a K99 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Research Fellowship Award.

“The Tri-Institutional Breakout Award will help me establish my own lab as an independent investigator,” Dr. Arifuzzaman said. “I’m excited to continue my work to advance this robust field of inquiry in multiple collaborative projects. There are hundreds of known metabolites produced by microbiota, which affect immunity in complex ways, and we are still discovering new ones.”

Dr. Arifuzzaman was honored with the other 2024 award winners, Dr. Naama Aviram from The Rockefeller University and Dr. Allesandra Brambati from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, on June 14 at the Tri-Institutional Breakout Prize Scientific Symposium.

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