Historical Timeline

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When the Pennington Biomedical Research Center opened its doors in 1988, the original mission statement was brilliantly simple: to improve the quality and length of life by studies of the effect of nutrition and other lifestyle factors on health and life span.

Since its founding, Pennington Biomedical has led the scientific community in achieving breakthrough research in nutrition, obesity and diabetes. For nearly twenty-five years, our scientists have helped to achieve and surpass Doc Pennington's mission by uncovering groundbreaking science in how diet, exercise and lifestyle affect the human body.

Click on a era below to explore significant historical details and events of Pennington Biomedical.

  • Launched Obecity, USA, a hisotric, public service campaign to raise awareness of obesity as a disease.
  • Christopher Morrison,  PhD, Professor and Director, Neurosignaling Laboratory, was named Associate Executive Director for Basic Science.  Dr. Morrison also holds the endowed John S. McIlhenny Professorship of Nutritional Neuroscience.
  • Robert L. Newton Jr., Associate Professor and Director, Physical Activity and Ethnic Minority Health Laboratory,  accepted a two-year term as Chairperson of the Lifestyle Change and Behavioral Health Study Section for the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review.
  • Pennington Biomedical serves as a the first COVID-19 mass vaccination site in the Baton Rouge area for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.  The COVID-19 vaccination clinic is capable of vaccinating more than 7,500 people per week.
  • The Bariatric and Metabolic Institute (BMI) opens on the Pennington Biomedical campus. For the first time in its history, Pennington Biomedical begins treating patients using methods identified in earlier scientific discoveries. 
  • The Metabolic Basis of Disease Center is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The center will pioneer research to understand metabolic components of various disorders and diseases including Diabetes, Preeclampsia & Anxiety behaviors.
  • Leanne Redman, PhD, Professor and Director, Reproductive Endocrinology & Women's Health Laboratory, was named Associate Executive Director for Scientific Education.  Dr. Redman is Program Director on Pennington Biomedical's most recent renewal of the Training in  Obesity Research National Institutes of Health T32 award.  The grant funding is used to train postdoctoral fellows.
  • Cleveland Clinic, Pennington Biomedical Research Center host Cleveland Clinic’s 14th Annual Obesity Summit
  • Pennington Biomedical secures $16.4 Million in defense work. Scientists begin research studying strategies to maintain normal testosterone levels under extreme conditions to offset warfighter muscle loss.
  • Pennington Biomedical joins scientists, physicians, and clinical exercise specialists from across the country in the landmark National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to find out what happens at the molecular level when people exercise. The study is named  MoTrPAC, (Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium).
  • Pennington Biomedical hosts 17 of the most respected scientists in cancer research for an international scientific symposium. It is the research center's first scientific symposium to focus on cancer.
  • Pennington Biomedical, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Louisiana Economic Development, LSU Health New Orleans and the Office of the Governor join forces to establish a new bariatric/metabolic surgery program.  Dr. Philip Schauer, who helped pioneer laparoscopic bariatric surgery, is recruited to head the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.  The institute is expected to create 55 direct jobs with an average salary of $125,000.  The Baton Rouge Area Chamber chooses the institute as its 2019 Project of the Year.
  • Pennington Biomedical celebrates 30 years of growth and discoveries.
  • The CALERIE 2 study shows reducing calories by 12 percent for two years slowed aging and metabolism and protected against age-related disease. The findings of the longest-running calorie restriction trial suggest calorie restriction sustained over several years may lower the risk of chronic disease and prolong life.
  • Pennington Biomedical marks 30 years of research for the military including 130 studies related to warfighter health.  The center's first research project looked at the effects of diet on U.S. Army soldiers’ performance.
  • Steven Heymsfield, MD, FTOS, professor and director of the Metabolism and Body Composition Laboratory, is elected  president of The Obesity Society.
  • John Kirwan, director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center and professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, is named executive director of  Pennington Biomedical Research Center, replacing Interim Executive Director, Dr. Donna Ryan. He is the sixth executive director in the center's 30-year history.
  • Pennington Biomedical was recognized by the American Heart Association as a Platinum Fit-Friendly Worksite for taking great strides to improve the well-being of employees by creating a culture of wellness and providing more options to make healthy choices.
  • Pennington Biomedical was designated as a Level 1 Well-Ahead Well Spot by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, a distinction that honors a commitment to wellness.
  • Pennington Biomedical partnered with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Tulane School of Public Health to encourage less screen time for children.
  • Dr. Claude Bouchard, who holds the John W. Barton, Sr. Endowed Chair in Genetics and Nutrition, was named an LSU Boyd Professor, the highest and most prestigious academic rank.
  • Dr. Steve Heymsfield was awarded the 2016 George A. Bray Founders Award from The Obesity Society, an honor presented to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the scientific or clinical basis for understanding and treating obesity.
  • Pennington Biomedical releases the Childhood Obesity Treatment Toolkit, which provides integrative strategies to pediatricians for reducing and treating childhood obesity across Louisiana.
  • Pennington Biomedical plays a role in two of the largest-ever genome-wide studies of obesity, which could lead to a better understanding of the causes of the disease and new evidence-based treatments.
  • A collaboration between Pennington Biomedical and its partners concludes with the release of the Healthy Communities – West Carroll initiative, a report that identifies health disparities in the area and provides a path forward to improving health for the parish’s at-risk residents.
  • A new discovery shows that mice lacking a certain gene in their skeletal muscle that allows their bodies to burn fat, adapted to burn sugar instead. This finding could lay the foundation for future development of new treatments for obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • A Pennington Biomedical collaboration shows that adding the medication liraglutide to a regimen of diet and exercise boosts weight loss and improves metabolic control.
  • The Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center (formerly BRC) receives a $9.2 million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which allows work to continue investigating native plants, botanical extracts and other natural products as prospects for the prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  • Pennington Biomedical’s Doc’s DASH 5k and 1-mile fun run grows in attendance during its second year.
  • The CALERIE study shows that restricting calories by 25 percent daily over a two-year period, the significant weight and fat loss, along with marked improvements in metabolism and other health indicators, may lead to healthier aging by reducing risk factors for chronic disease.
  • The Elite Health and Wellness Program launches for community members who are interested in losing weight and learning more about their health.
  • Basic science researchers discover two new molecules that  reduce inflammation without inducing diabetes, as some steroids do with long-term use.
  • The results of the landmark SPRINT study show that more intensive management of high blood pressure significantly reduces rates of cardiovascular disease and lowers risk of death in a group of adults 50 years and earlier with high blood pressure. The target systolic pressure in this study is 120 mm HG, as compared with the previous target systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg.
  • Pennington Biomedical is awarded a $10 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the comparative effectiveness of obesity treatment options for underserved populations delivered in primary care settings.
  • The Translational Research Clinic for Children (TReCC) opens to research and fight childhood obesity.
  • Pennington Biomedical is designated as an Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) site, making it the only site within a tri-state area with the designation.
  • Dr. David Winwood is named Pennington Biomedical's first Chief Business Development Officer.
  • A new health technology program using internet and smartphone apps is developed to target soldier readiness and resilience, called Army H.E.A.L.T.H.: Healthy Eating Activity and Lifestyle Training Headquarters.
  • Pennington Biomedical's new Biomedical Imaging Center is inaugurated.
  • Pennington Biomedical kicks off its premier community health event, Doc’s DASH 5k and 1-mile fun run, which brought more than 1,000 people to campus.
  • Pennington Biomedical is awarded a $16 million grant by the U.S. Dept. of Defense to support optimal nutrition, fitness, combat readiness, warfighter performance and resilience.
  • Dr. William Cefalu is named Pennington Biomedical's executive director.
  • Pennington Biomedical's human research protection awarded accreditation by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP).
  • The E-Moms study begins and aims to aid women receiving Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits in losing the weight gained during their pregnancy through a smartphone app.
  • The D2d (Vitamin D and Type 2 Diabetes) study kicks off to determine if vitamin D helps prevent diabetes.
  • The NIH awards Pennington Biomedical  $20 million to create the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center (LA CaTS) with Pennington Biomedical as the lead agency.
  • The NIH awards Pennington Biomedical a $2.3 million grant to improve the health and well-being of female collegiate athletes.
  • Dr. Eric Ravussin is named Boyd Professor, the LSU system's highest rank.
  • The DASH diet is selected for the first time by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 diet in America after Pennington Biomedical's contributions. It still tops the list today.
  • The NIH-funded Look AHEAD study shows weight loss and increased physical fitness nearly half the risk of losing mobility on overweight or obese adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Pennington Biomedical is recognized as one of the highest-ranked institutions in The Scientist as the fourth-best place to work for postdocs.
  • Dr. Phillip Brantley is awarded $9.9 million from the Office of Group Benefits to study the health benefits and cost effectiveness of medical and surgical treatments for obesity.
  • Pennington Biomedical is awarded a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for Army warfighter research.
  • Pennington Biomedical is awarded a $5.2 million grant from LSU Health Care Services Division (now LSU Health) for a state-of-the-art learning community aimed at improving health system quality.
  • The NIH awards Pennington Biomedical $3.5 million for the Expecting Success program, which aims to improve weight management in pregnant women.
  • The ASPREE study is funded by the NIH to determine if a daily aspirin regimen can lower the risk of developing dementia and cardiovascular disease.
  • The SPRINT study is funded by the NIH to determine if reducing systolic blood pressure to a lower goal than currently recommended will reduce cardiovascular disease.
  • Pennington Biomedical partners with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation to create Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana, which fights obesity across the state.
  • Louisiana's Report Card on Physical Activity and Health for Children and Youth is released for the first time as part of Pennington Biomedical's childhood obesity initiative.
  • Dr. Steven Heymsfield is named Pennington Biomedical's executive director.
  • The Diabetes Prevention Programs Outcomes Study results are published, showing lifestyle changes designed to achieve and maintain modest weight loss reduce the rate of developing type 2 diabetes by 34 percent over ten years.
  • Pennington Biomedical celebrates its 20th anniversary.
  • During a special session, the Louisiana State Legislature approves $50 million in funding to complete a new clinic building, renovate the existing clinic and provide other campus improvements and research equipment.
  • The Conference on 20 Most Significant Achievements in Obesity Research, Treatment and Prevention convenes at Pennington Biomedical.
  • The Louisiana State Legislature awards Pennington Biomedical it's first-ever construction award of $21 million to fund construction of a new clinical facility.
  • A new population science annex is completed.
  • The NIH awards funding to the Center to create the Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE).
  • The Center of Excellence in Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome is created with the first NIH center grant to Pennington Biomedical to focus basic research on whether plants and extracts can effectively treat type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It is one of only five such research centers in the nation.
  • The John S. McIlhenny Laboratory of Botanical Research is also created.
  • The second NIH center grant to Pennington Biomedical is won by a team led by Eric Ravussin, Ph.D. to study prenatal causes of obesity.
  • The William Hansel Laboratory of Cancer Prevention is created.
  • Themelios—a fund to finance development of early-stage Center discoveries—is created with a $10 million initial investment from the Pennington Family Foundation.
  • Pennington Biomedical awards its first honorary doctorate to Dr. Douglas Coleman for research on diabetes and obesity that provided the foundation for advances in understanding of energy balance regulation.
  • The 187,000-foot basic science laboratory building opens.
  • "Step by Step, Kids Trimming Down" is produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, which again features Pennington Biomedical researchers.
  • "Kids: Trying to Trim Down" is produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, featuring Pennington Biomedical researchers and is seen across the country.
  • Paula Pennington de la Bretonne, Doc's granddaughter, is named Chairman of the Board.
  • Irene Pennington, Doc's wife, passes away at 104 years old.
  • Planning begins for the first International Scientific Symposium, and the series continues today.
  • The NIH awards  a $12.4 grant to Dr. Eric Ravussin to study whether long term calorie restriction has anti-aging benefits. It is the largest grant to date.
  • Pennington Biomedical concludes the NIH-funded Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).  The results show that at least 10 million Americans who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can sharply lower their chances of being diagnosed with the disease through diet and exercise.
  • Drs. David York and Leslie Kozak are awarded a five-year, $6 million grant to discover genes associated with obesity.
  • Total grants from the NIH reach $5.5 million and exceed state appropriations for the first time.
  • Dr. Claude Bouchard becomes the second executive director after Dr. George Bray steps down to resume full-time research.
  • Dr. George Bray is named a Boyd Professor, the LSU system's highest rank.
  • An extension of the comparative biology building is completed.
  • Pennington Biomedical's website goes live and allows for better recruiting and postdoctoral programs.
  • DASH diet results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which shows the diet significantly lowers blood pressure.
  • The NIH awards Pennington Biomedical funding to participate in a second study of dietary patterns and blood pressure, along with Johns Hopkins, Duke and Harvard Universities.
  • C.B. "Doc" Pennington passes away at 97.
  • The USDA funds the Lower Mississippi River Delta Nutrition and Health Initiative to study nutrition intervention in the Mississippi River delta regions of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
  • The Transgenic Laboratory is completed.
  • Pennington Biomedical hosts the Nutrient Database Conference and North American Association for the Study of Obesity annual meetings.
  • The National Dairy Council awards funding for studies of dietary fat, genetics, and heart disease.
  • Center employment totals 269 scientists and support staff.
  • The NIH selects Pennington Biomedical to help study the effect of diet on blood pressure, resulting in the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, a five-time award-winning "best diet" by U.S. News & World Report, which still tops the list today.)
  • NASA funds a study about the role nutrition and metabolism play in preventing bone and muscle loss during long-term space flight.
  • The C.B. Claude Pennington Jr. Nutrition Conference and Education Center is completed.
  • Pennington Biomedical is awarded its first pharmaceutical research grant.
  • Pennington Biomedical is selected to participate in an NIH study to examine the effects of diet on risk factors for heart disease.
  • Pennington Biomedical begins its first human research studies, one which examines the effects of diet on soldiers' performance, and another that examines the effects of eating habits on body weight and metabolism.
  • Funding is provided to construct a metabolic kitchen and metabolic chambers.
  • Pennington Biomedical receives standalone status and becomes a separate campus of the LSU system, rather than part of the Louisiana State Medical Center.
  • The Louisiana Legislature commits to a $5 million annual appropriation for operations.
  • The Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation creates the Center's first endowed chair, the Claude B. Pennington, Jr. Chair.
  • Dr. Donna Ryan is chosen to lead the first clinical research team.
  • Pennington Biomedical signs a $3.5 million research agreement with the U.S. Army through its U.S. Military Nutrition Programs.
  • Dr. David York becomes the first head of basic research, leading the Experimental Obesity Research Program.
  • Dr. George Bray, a world-renowned obesity, diabetes and metabolism specialist, is appointed as the Center's first executive director.
  • U.S. Senator Bennett Johnston and Congresswoman Lindy Boggs help procure a $9.4 million grant from the USDA that is used to equip the first labs.
  • Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation formed by Baton Rouge business leaders.
  • The Baton Rouge Area Foundation commits critical funds to hire the Center's first executive director.
  • Construction is completed on a 222-acre tract of land that Pennington Biomedical sits on today. It includes an administrative building, outpatient clinics, a basic laboratory wing, an animal care facility, and a physical plant. The search begins for a director and scientists.
  • Construction of Pennington Biomedical Research Center begins.
  • Ground is broken on land owned by Louisiana State University along what is now Perkins Road.
  • C.B. "Doc" Pennington and his wife, Irene, pledge $125 million to Louisiana State University to build the biggest and best nutritional research facility in the nation. At the time it was the largest single gift to an institution of higher learning. The gift was made possible after Doc, an optometrist, bought land near Port Hudson where oil was discovered in 1977.