Thinking bigger to improve human health

Thinking bigger to improve human health

surge in greenhouse
Andrew Benson (right) and James Schnable examine a head of grain sorghum in the Nebraska Innovation Campus Greenhouse.

The Nebraska Food for Health Center grew out of a challenge from Jeffrey Raikes to "think bigger."

When a group of University of Nebraska scientists discussed ways to further develop their research on the relationship between microorganisms in the digestive tract with our diets, Raikes, a Nebraska native and former Microsoft executive, repeatedly challenged them to think bigger.

Raikes envisioned "Agriculture 2.0," an endeavor that would connect Nebraska agriculture with improved health for people worldwide. The result is the Nebraska Food for Health Center, a $40.3 million collaboration of researchers across the university system, food and drug manufacturers and philanthropists.

Jeffrey Raikes
Jeffrey Raikes

Through their foundation, Raikes and his wife, Tricia, committed a $3 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to help launch the center. That gift includes a $1 million challenge grant. In recognition of Raikes' service as chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates foundation also made a $2 million gift to support the center. University funding includes $19 million over five years and $20.5 million in private donations.