Anne Ballou, Ph.D.





Anne Ballou, Ph.D., will be speaking on unlocking the secrets of pet gut health on Tuesday, April 30, at 3:00-3:20 p.m. during the “Ingredients/nutrition: Alternative pet food proteins, the microbiome” concurrent sessions. Register now

Learn more about Anne Ballou’s presentation below:

What is the single, most important concept you hope attendees will learn from your presentation?

I want the audience to leave with an appreciation of the complexities but also the immense potential of the gut microbiota in the way we design and evaluate pet health and nutrition products.

Please explain the significance of this concept to the pet food industry and yourself:

The pet food industry is constantly adapting to the needs and desires of pet owners and pets, while trying to incorporate new advances in research, material science, and sustainability. There are a lot of things to balance here, and nearly all of these considerations touch on what’s going on in the gut at some point. Treating animals and their guts holistically, as one unit, will allow us to design better products, and evaluate their safety and efficacy quickly and conclusively.

I am not a nutritionist, or a veterinarian, or a product designer, but I love the gut; I love how complex it is, how it touches every aspect of whole-body health and wellbeing. If I can communicate my fascination with this complex ecosystem, and the potential it has to improve our lives and the lives of our pets, I can contribute to the work that others are doing to improve the lives of the animals we love so much.

hat are potential next developments in this specific field?

I see two primary paths of development when talking about gut microbiome research. Data generation and data analysis. The molecular biology tools that made it possible to explore the world of genomes and transcripts continue to develop and evolve. Every year it is getting cheaper and easier to get good data and I don’t think that’s going to change.

I can’t claim to know what the next breakthrough or revolution will be in this regard, but I’m very excited to see it. The problem of data analysis is a little more complex; we’re now generating data faster than we can make sense of it in many ways. To get full value from a research project or other data source, you have to apply the right methods, you have to understand your research questions deeply, and you have to be prepared to deal with the multi-variate nature of the gut. Taking a reductionist approach to studying the microbiome has produced very mixed results over the years, and developing and applying strategies that allow us to evaluate the whole system in all its complexity will be key to making big advances in chronic and acute gut health problems.

Presentation Description:

The power of data science in unlocking the secrets of pet gut health — Ballou explains why next-generation surveying of gut health and advanced data analytics have the potential to revolutionize the way we design and develop nutrition and health solutions for pets. The fusion of biology, the data analytics and machine learning can reshape the way nutritionists and companies make informed choices about gut health. Ballou presents a process for incorporating these advances into the broader pet food R&D space, using an analytics platform to facilitate and streamline studies of pet microbiota, and turn data into actionable insights.


Anne Ballou, Ph.D., works to support healthy and happy animals by improving gastrointestinal health and function. She received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in animal science from the University of Kentucky, and her doctorate in functional genomics from North Carolina State University, where she studied the relationships between gastrointestinal bacteria and host immune function. Ballou’s work overlays data science, genetics and immunology to understand and promote microbiomes that contribute to animal health and function.