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Immunologist Stephania Cormier joins Pennington Biomedical

Respiratory Immunology & Toxicology Lab Relocates to Perkins Road Campus
Released: Tuesday, September 08, 2020


Stephania Cormier

“Dr. Cormier is a world-renowned scientist, and we’re excited that she’s moved her lab to Pennington Biomedical,” said Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD.  “Her recent COVID-19-related work – developing a saliva test for the virus and setting up the River Road Testing Lab – demonstrates both her vast capabilities and a desire to address some of the most pressing health issues facing our society.”

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Respiratory Immunologist Stephania Cormier, PhD, has moved her Respiratory Immunology & Toxicology Laboratory to the campus of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. 

“Dr. Cormier is a world-renowned scientist, and we’re excited that she’s moved her lab to Pennington Biomedical,” said Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD.

“Her recent COVID-19-related work – developing a saliva test for the virus and setting up the River Road Testing Lab – demonstrates both her vast abilities and a desire to address some of the most pressing health issues facing our society.”

Dr. Cormier’s lab researches how early life exposures to respiratory viruses, airborne pollutants, and/or allergens result in long-term respiratory dysfunction (e.g., asthma).  However, during the pandemic, the lab has pivoted to focus on filling gaps in COVID-19 testing and analysis. 

Since moving to Pennington Biomedical, Dr. Cormier’s lab has developed a saliva test to help track COVID-19 in K-12 school children and teachers.

The saliva test follows Dr. Cormier’s earlier success setting up a lab to analyze COVID-19 test kits.  In March, there was a critical shortage of test kits and labs to analyze them.  Dr. Cormier and Rebecca Christofferson, PhD, an emerging-viruses expert and epidemiologist at LSU, set up the new lab in a matter of days.

The River Road Testing Lab at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine prepared over 8,000 test kits with the help of Elizabeth Floyd, PhD, Associate Professor and Co-director, Botanical Supplements Research Center at Pennington Biomedical. 

For two months, the River Road lab served 18 Baton Rouge-area medical facilities by processing 3,857 individual samples for SARS-CoV-2, a total of 11,571 individual PCR reactions with a median turnaround time of 1.67 days from time of collection.

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Cormier’s lab was focused on showing that the rates of type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity are much higher in Louisiana and other states where particulate air pollution levels exceed federal regulations.  The rates of asthma and heart attack deaths are also much higher than the national average in those states.

“The research suggests that childhood obesity levels are rising worldwide as a result of exposing moms to particulate pollution,” Dr. Cormier said.  “It’s not because infants or children are eating more or that they are less active.”

Dr. Cormier will have a joint appointment with Pennington Biomedical (Professor and Director of the Respiratory Immunology & Toxicology Laboratory) and LSU.  In addition to overseeing the LSU Superfund Research Program, Dr. Cormier serves as Associate Vice President of Research and Economic Development with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at LSU A&M where she is also a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

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About LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center

LSU's 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 Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 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.