Baton Rouge-N.O. Group Finalist for ‘Build Back Better’ Funds

Dec. 17, 2021

For more information, contact Ted Griggs,, 225-288-8840

Grant Would Boost Efforts to Turn Region into National Leader in Health Sciences

BATON ROUGE – A Baton Rouge/New Orleans coalition is among the finalists competing for $1 billion in federal funding that could fast-track the push to make the region a national leader in health sciences.

If the bid succeeds, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center campus will build a new center that will help physicians quickly adopt cutting-edge science-based solutions to prevent, treat and cure obesity, diabetes, cancer and dementia.  

The Center for Innovation in Implementation Science is one of two major projects that the coalition, whose members include Pennington Biomedical and the Baton Rouge Health District, proposed under the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.  The other project would transform the primary interstate entry points to the Health District into signature gateways, enhancing the sense of arrival into a distinctive health care district and a major urban center. 

“Being a finalist for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge is an incredible achievement and an exciting economic opportunity for the region and the state. The potential award – up to $100 million – could turbocharge efforts to turn the Baton Rouge/New Orleans corridor into a national leader in health sciences. We will build on the successes of our newly established bariatric surgery program and national Obecity USA awareness campaign to make Pennington and the Baton Rouge Health District an international destination for research and treatment of obesity and other chronic illnesses,” said Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan, Ph.D.

The Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor is one of 60 finalists chosen from more than 500 applications in the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The EDA described the challenge as a once-in-a-generation funding opportunity aimed at strengthening growth in communities nationwide by leveraging local assets and encouraging collaboration.

The Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor is a unique partnership between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. 
As a finalist, the corridor will receive a $500,000 planning grant to help further develop the proposed projects and prepare for the final application.

“The Baton Rouge Health District has demonstrated strong recent growth across all its dimensions as a physical health care destination, a coalition of health-related stakeholders, and as an anchor district organization,” said Steven Ceulemans, the district’s Executive Director. “The continued federal support for our initiatives strengthens the value proposition of our work and allows us to advance exciting and unique new initiatives for the betterment of our community and region.”

“This Phase I award is a tremendous milestone in the expansion of key infrastructure developments in South Louisiana. These projects are intended to tackle some of our community’s toughest problems through innovation and economic expansion, while driving growth in the BR/NO Super Region,” said Kris Khalil, Executive Director of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center. “Louisiana has a legacy of a strong health care sector combined with cutting-edge academic research. We look forward to the opportunity to accelerate our momentum through health care innovation.”

“The Health District is thrilled to receive this planning grant from the EDA. This grant can be transformational in our community while we work on infrastructure and healthcare innovation both locally and across the region,” said John Spain, Chair of the Baton Rouge Health District Board and Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.


About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center
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.  The Center architected the “Obecity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040.  The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University.  The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel.  Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  For more information, see