John Kirwan Named Executive Director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center

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Released: Tuesday, December 05, 2017

BATON ROUGE – LSU President F. King Alexander has announced that John Kirwan, director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center and professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, has been named executive director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, pending approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors.

"We are pleased to welcome Dr. Kirwan as executive director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center," Alexander said. "His exceptional record of excellence in diabetes-related research, including the discovery that the disease can sometimes be cured by surgical alteration of the stomach, make him the perfect fit for Pennington Biomedical. I am excited to see the effect his direction has on the center's existing efforts toward improving health outcomes for Louisiana citizens and its already stellar research portfolio."

Alexander also thanked Donna Ryan, a world-renowned obesity researcher, physician and professor emerita at Pennington Biomedical, for serving as interim executive director of Pennington Biomedical since January.

In addition to serving as director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center and professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, Kirwan is also a professor of physiology and of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. His professional expertise includes almost 30 years of research, teaching and service in the obesity and diabetes fields.

"I am enthusiastic to join the team with President Alexander and all of the wonderful people at Pennington Biomedical," Kirwan said. "As the pandemic of chronic disease and obesity garner more attention internationally, Pennington Biomedical is well-positioned to be a leader in clinical research on those issues, as well as discovering new treatments, and providing outreach to support healthier life styles."

Kirwan received his clinical physiology training at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.; his Ph.D. in human bioenergetics at Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.; his master's degree in exercise biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass.; and his bachelor's degree (Hons) from the University of Limerick, Ireland.

Kirwan leads an internationally acclaimed biomedical research program focused on diabetes, obesity, nutrition and exercise. He is currently PI or Co-Investigator on nine NIH grants, and to date he has generated more than $35 million in research funding, most which has come from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the food, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. He has published more than 200 scientific papers related to diabetes and metabolism in prestigious peer-reviewed journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Diabetes and Diabetes Care. Among his most important research contributions is the discovery that for a significant number of patients, diabetes can be put into long-term remission by surgically altering the physiology of the intestine and stomach.

Kirwan and his wife, April, have four children, and a lovable mutt named Bailey.

Pennington Biomedical's mission is to discover the triggers of chronic disease and put science to work for a healthier Louisiana, country and global community. For more information on Pennington Biomedical, visit


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.