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Governor Jindal and Pennington Biomedical Research Center Announce Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program; Open New Pediatric Research Clinic

Released: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal and Pennington Biomedical Research Center, a campus of LSU, announced the formation of a Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program at the research center’s Baton Rouge-based campus, and opened a newly renovated space for the program’s activities, the Translational Research Clinic for Children (TReCC). Governor Jindal and state legislators joined LSU President F. King Alexander and Pennington Biomedical leaders William Cefalu and Peter Katzmarzyk for the gathering and ribbon cutting. 

The $6.4 million in funding for the newly renovated building that houses the research clinic was provided by the State of Louisiana, and Pennington Biomedical officials praised Governor Bobby Jindal and the legislature today for the investment. The new research program and clinic is housed in the heart of the campus, in 14,000 square feet of repurposed space.

Governor Jindal said that the new center is necessary because childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in many countries, including the United States. In Louisiana, nearly 50 percent of children are overweight or obese.  Obesity predisposes adolescents to “adult onset” diabetes, a condition that appears harder to control in young people than in adults, and if left inadequately treated, can lead to significant complications such as blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and nerve problems.   Research has also shown that obesity during childhood is highly predictive of future health outcomes in adulthood.  These were driving factors for Pennington Biomedical in making the prevention and management of childhood obesity one of its highest priorities.

Governor Jindal said, “This new pediatric program and research clinic will provide access to cutting edge child obesity and diabetes health resources that are currently not available in Louisiana. The new clinic will go a long way toward improving the nutrition of our children and it will help them live fuller and happier lives. This investment in Pennington Biomedical is not only an investment in research; it is a continued investment in a healthier Louisiana. That’s why we’ve dedicated over $70 million to Pennington Biomedical’s efforts since 2008, creating a new era of growth and research for Pennington Biomedical and our efforts to improve nutrition for our families.”

According to Pennington Biomedical Research Center Executive Director William Cefalu, M.D., since the State of Louisiana committed resources to these new and renovated facilities, Pennington Biomedical has averaged $21 million annually in grant expenditures from federal, private industry and philanthropy sources specifically related to this investment.  This has created and sustained 160 biomedical jobs.  In speaking about the specific investment in the pediatric research program and clinic, Cefalu noted, “This program allows us to extend our expertise and proven leadership in obesity and diabetes research to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. We are working with our fellow LSU campuses and partners in the community and state to create an integrated and collaborative childhood obesity and diabetes research program with outstanding physicians and scientists that will allow us to generate additional federal and private research funding. Collaboration is the only way we can address this issue on a state-wide level.” Cefalu noted that the State’s investment has already been leveraged significantly with more than $13 million in pediatric research funding and contributions dedicated to childhood obesity research at Pennington Biomedical.  

LSU President F. King Alexander, Ph.D., noted that the new research clinic and program enhances LSU collaborations for children that include LSU’s Ag Center, LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and the University Laboratory School. “This will allow Pennington Biomedical, as part of LSU, to provide leadership to the entire state on a topic that has enormous public health impact. Pennington Biomedical and all of LSU is about providing solutions to the state's workforce, scientific, social, and economic challenges. This research program will provide solutions for perhaps one of the most pressing health problems of our state and the nation.”

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert said, “Pennington Biomedical’s new pediatric research facility and clinic will serve an invaluable role in providing the information we need to improve the health and wellbeing of our children and adolescents. We all have a part to play in improving our health, whether it is walking more, choosing healthier foods, or making improvements to our homes, schools and workplaces. Together we can build a healthy future for Louisiana’s children.”

“The formalizing of our Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program and the opening of the TReCC are important landmarks in the history of Pennington Biomedical, as it will allow us to make significant contributions to improve the health of children across Louisiana, the United States and even the world,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical and the newly named Marie Edana Corcoran Endowed Chair in Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes, the result of a $1 million commitment from Our Lady of the Lake to support this emerging program.

Dr. Katzmarzyk highlighted some of the important projects including a recently completed Pennington Biomedical study funded by the National Institutes of Health on identifying the best markers of abdominal obesity and future health risks among 400 children. In addition, Dr. Katzmarzyk is currently leading a 12-country childhood obesity research study of 6000 children to better understand the underlying determinants of the development of obesity. He noted in his remarks today other new children’s efforts underway including community-based programs in West Carroll Parish, an LSU Ag Center-led program.  “The LSU AgCenter and Pennington Biomedical are working together on a project to build healthier communities across Louisiana. We’re starting in West Carroll Parish, where we have just begun a long-term program to reduce obesity and improve the health status of the families throughout the parish,” remarked Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture.

In addition, Pennington Biomedical has partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana for the Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana program aimed at tackling obesity. Additionally, Pennington Biomedical recently launched a clinical trial testing video game exercise for girls and is conducting a new pharmaceutical trial for pediatric diabetes. “We will take what we learn here and impact the lives of children beyond these walls,” Katzmarzyk added. 

Pennington Biomedical’s Translational Research Clinic for Children will informally be known as “the TReCC” and offers a youth-friendly environment for children and adolescents to participate in research studies aimed at improving health and reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.  The name of the clinic was chosen to convey a positive and welcoming feeling for young study volunteers, underscoring the importance of physical activity, which will be featured prominently along with nutrition, behavioral and pharmaceutical research studies.

A tour of the new Translational Research Clinic for Children included the following:

  • 14,000 square feet of clinical space, located in the heart of Pennington Biomedical campus
  • 6 examination rooms for clinic assessment visits by physician scientists
  • Room and instrumentation to measure metabolism in infants, the only one located  in the United States
  • Exercise room outfitted with child and adolescent-sized equipment, including treadmills, stationary bicycles, etc. and including an observation room
  • Activity room with child appropriate play equipment, rock wall climbing, etc., and including an observation room and adjoining outdoor playground equipment
  • Demonstration kitchen with attached conference room for family nutrition and meal preparation instruction

For more information on Pennington Biomedical’s Obesity and Diabetes Research Program for Children and the Translational Research Clinic for Children and its research studies and programming, call 225-763-3000 or go to http://pediatrics.pbrc.edu

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.