From National Recognitions to Scientific Discovery, Pennington Biomedical Celebrates a Year of Successes in 2023
December 21, 2023
For more information, contact Ernie Ballard, firstname.lastname@example.org, 225-263-2677
BATON ROUGE – Since its founding 35 years ago, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has led the scientific community in achieving breakthrough research in nutrition, obesity and diabetes, and this year was no different. From its 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Pennington Biomedical is working on cutting-edge research to fight chronic disease, along with developing best practices and interventions for medical professionals to follow.
With the new year approaching, it is a time to reflect on the year that was and celebrate all that happened at Pennington Biomedical in 2023.
“I could not be prouder of the work being done by our amazing faculty and staff each and every day,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical. “We are unique in our field, with Basic, Population and Clinical Sciences all under one roof – we are truly creating solutions from cells to society. While accolades and awards are an important measure of success, true success comes from the knowledge that everything we do leads to a healthier state, country and world.”
The year started with the American Academy of Pediatrics issuing its first comprehensive guidelines in 15 years on evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents with obesity. Dr. Amanda Staiano, director of the pediatric obesity and health behavior laboratory, served as a co-author on the guidelines, released in January.
“These guidelines are a game changer to provide comprehensive, evidence-based medical care to children with obesity,” Dr. Staiano said. “Obesity treatment is safe and effective, and I’m proud to be part of the team that reviewed over 30 years of scientific evidence that support these guidelines.”
A number of Pennington Biomedical faculty were recognized for their research in 2023, including Dr. Robert Newton receiving a Google Health Equity Award, Dr. Philip Schauer being highlighted by the Business Report as a Baton Rouge Difference Maker, Dr. Heike Muenzberg-Gruening being celebrated by inRegister magazine as an inspiring woman in the local community, and Dr. Emily Flanagan being honored with The Obesity Society’s 2023 Early Career Travel Award.
The awards didn’t stop there, as Dr. Leanne Redman was named the recipient of The Obesity Society’s 2023 TOPS Research Achievement Award, the most prestigious award for obesity research in North America.
Upon receiving the award Dr. Redman said, “To receive the TOPS research award is an honor of a lifetime, as it recognizes the efforts for which I have devoted toward researching perinatal energy metabolism, the generational transmission of obesity, and general health for women, infants and children. I am proud to bring this award back to Pennington Biomedical, where I can pursue this research with world class resources.”
Pennington Biomedical faculty continued to receive international accolades in 2023 as well. Five Pennington Biomedical Research Center faculty members and one adjunct professor rank among the most cited researchers in the world, according to the Google Scholar Citations database.
In the spring, Pennington Biomedical welcomed scientists from around the world for the Center’s Executive Advisory Board on-site visit. The External Advisory Board convenes every two years and helps evaluate the Center’s vision, mission and priorities for future development. Following their visit, the group of internationally renowned researchers documented that the state of Pennington Biomedical is strong and its future promising. They also made key recommendations to help the Center capitalize on opportunities for substantial growth and to evolve research in obesity and metabolic disease over the next five years.
The Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science, or LA CaTS, Center also hosted its External Advisory Committee at Pennington Biomedical. The role of the LA CaTS Center External Advisory Committee is to provide an objective evaluation of the progress of LA CaTS and to provide recommendations based off those assessments.
Since its inception, Pennington Biomedical has been involved in hundreds of significant research discoveries and milestones, and 2023 was no exception. The Center has been involved in testing all obesity, most diabetes, and many dementia drugs currently in the market, and many Pennington Biomedical researchers are advising on the safety and results shown with the use of new weight-loss drugs.
This year saw the conclusion of a 12-year study that affirmed that bariatric surgery shows better results and less regression over standard diabetes management.
“These landmark results further enforce the confidence we have in the success and efficacy of metabolic and bariatric surgery. For those patients who are in serious need of weight loss, and for whom diet, exercise and medication did not produce the desired results, these patients can be assured that this operation is safe, and the results are well established,” said Dr. Schauer said.
Researchers, led by Pennington Biomedical Research Center's Dr. Justin Brown, found that physical activity can prevent, and not just delay, cancer recurrence in patients previously treated for colon cancer. These findings could have an impact on clinical practice in the future by refining the understanding of how physical activity improves cancer survivorship in a manner relevant to tumor biology and cancer care delivery.
Pennington Biomedical remains at the forefront of precision nutrition with the Center being selected as one of 14 sites nationwide enrolling participants in an NIH landmark initiative, Nutrition for Precision Health. The study will engage 10,000 participants across the country to learn more about how our bodies respond differently to food. Earlier this year, Pennington Biomedical hosted representatives from participating sites across the country for a training session on the program.
“Food lies at the epicenter of health and disease. But clinical nutrition is still limited to a one-size-fits-all-approach that far too often fails a large segment of the population,” said Dr. Eric Ravussin, director of the nutrition obesity research center and an LSU Boyd Professor.
A number of research grants were awarded across the Center, but it was an especially productive year for our Basic Science faculty who received research awards totaling around $4 million in funding this year. These include research projects being led by Dr. Ji Suk Chang, Dr. Stephania Cormier, Dr. Wagner Dantas, Dr. Yanlin He, Dr. David McDougal, Dr. Krisz Stadler, and Dr. Robert Kesterson, to name a few.
Progress was made in 2023 for the Center’s Greaux Healthy program, a new evidence-based prevention and treatment initiative for Louisiana residents designed to combat childhood obesity. Melissa Martin, a registered dietitian with more than 10 years’ experience in patient care at various health systems, was named director for the state-funded Greaux Healthy initiative, which will be launching programs in the new year.
This year was also a year of giving back as Pennington Biomedical’s former executive director, Dr. Claude Bouchard, along with his wife, Monique Chagnon, pledged $1 million to create the endowed Claude Bouchard-Monique Chagnon Fund to support postdoctoral fellows in basic research, as well as in clinical and public health and population science.
Research infrastructure is key to the Center’s ability to conduct cutting-edge research. With support from the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, the Center made a significant investment in the Genomics Core Facility. This investment served to extend and expand the Core’s capabilities related to DNA and RNA sequencing and expression analysis, allowing Pennington Biomedical Scientists to continue conducting sophisticated research that drives a deeper understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying metabolic disease.
Other noteworthy accomplishments in 2023 include the following:
- Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have received $13.8 million for five years of research funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study the ideal “dose” of behavioral interventions to treat childhood obesity in rural and minority communities across Louisiana and Tennessee.
- The National Institutes of Health awarded the Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science Center, or LA CaTS, and Dr. Ronald Horswell, Associate Professor of Research - Population and Public Health at Pennington Biomedical, a grant of nearly $1.3 million to support the efforts of in-state healthcare institutions to share health data for research purposes across a common structure.
- The new Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Core was established in 2023, and Dr. Sujoy Ghosh was hired to head this new area.
- A study published in 2023 earned the front cover of Diabetes, a leading journal for metabolic research, treatment and prevention. Labeled “The Paper of the Month,” the study, “GDF15 Mediates the Effect of Skeletal Muscle Contraction on Glucose-Stimulated Insulin Secretion,” identified a new connection between exercise and improved management of type 2 diabetes.
- Prachi Singh was awarded a $3.7 million grant from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the cardiovascular risks of limited sleep.
- The Louisiana Obesity Society hosted its inaugural conference, in conjunction with the Louisiana Chapter of American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, in New Orleans. Physicians, psychologists, advanced practice providers, dietitians and others committed to treating and preventing obesity in Louisiana came together to formally launch the Louisiana Obesity Society and participate in the conference.
- Postdoctoral researcher Flori Corpodean was selected for a prestigious, nationally competitive resident research award from the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, which will provide $25,000 to further support Dr. Corpodean’s research.
- U.S. News & World Report has once again named the DASH Diet as one of the best diets for 2023. The DASH Diet, developed in part by Pennington Biomedical, is listed as the best heart-healthy diet and best diabetes diet. In addition, the American Heart Association ranked the DASH Diet as the association’s top heart-healthy eating style.
- The Center relaunched the Men’s Health Summit and hosted more than 600 people at the Irene W. Pennington Wellness Day for Women and more than 200 at the Senior Black American Health Fair.
“As we reflect on 2023, it’s important for the people of Baton Rouge and Louisiana to know the great things happening at Pennington Biomedical,” Dr. Kirwan said. “We do what we do for the people of the state and our success is their success. We look forward to celebrating many more achievements in 2024.”
For more news and successes from 2023 for Pennington Biomedical visit https://www.pbrc.edu/news/media/2023/.
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 conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with LSU.
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 a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge.
For more information, see www.pbrc.edu.
Pennington Biomedical Research Center
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808