Baton Rouge’s Pennington Biomedical hits on global scale

Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge is among the largest nutrition research centers in the country. That was the goal when C.B. “Doc” Pennington founded the center in 1988 through a $125 million gift.

While it may have seemed like a lofty goal at the time, it was actually not lofty enough.

That’s because Pennington is now one of the largest academically-based nutrition research centers in the world.

To understand the magnitude of Pennington, it’s important to note that it is not by itself one center. In fact, it comprises five centers:

  • Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center
  • Nutrition Obesity Research Center
  • Center of Biomedical Research Excellence
  • Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention
  • Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science Center

Pennington is formidable on a global scale, but the immediate benefactors are right here in Louisiana.

Clinical trials and research studies have engaged nearly 44,000 individuals from every parish in Louisiana in an effort to improve the health of the state’s residents.

The center is a campus of Louisiana State University with over 450 employees. It is spread across 222 acres and houses 44 laboratories. Pennington is also an important anchor to the growing Baton Rouge Health District, a conglomeration of eight health organizations.

Those numbers are all impressive, big Pennington didn’t get this big without scientific achievements.

Scientists at the center have uncovered advanced treatments for diseases from obesity and diabetes to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Recent work at Pennington uncovered a new protein that can be used to intervene with type-2 diabetes as well as the first evidence that a chemical compound called BAM15 could effectively treat obesity.  A recent study at the center identified that the response to regular exercise is highly individualized and that differences in genes and DNA sequences determine how much one benefits from a physically active lifestyle.

Here in Louisiana, the center released a childhood obesity treatment toolkit for physicians and pediatricians that provides integrative strategies for reducing and treating obesity in children.

Pennington Biomedical is now under the care of Dr. John Kirwan – the center’s sixth executive director and the former Director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kirwan is most known in the medical community for discovering that type 2 diabetes can often be cured by surgical alteration of the intestines and stomach.

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