Spotlight on Health and Well-being

LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center exemplifies how LSU leads the charge in improving health and well-being in Louisiana and beyond.

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Fierce for breakthrough discoveries that save lives

Meet Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD, and Professor Leanne Redman, PhD, two of the expert researchers at Pennington Biomedical dedicated to discovering lifesaving treatments for chronic diseases.

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Visionary philanthropist C.B. “Doc” Pennington’s goal to build the biggest and best nutritional research facility in the nation began to be realized in 1988, the year LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center first opened its doors. Since then, hundreds of researchers, including Dr. Leanne Redman, have devoted their careers to achieving the center’s original mission: improving people’s quality and length of life by studying the effect of nutrition and other lifestyle factors on health and life span.

“Louisiana is a living laboratory for the rest of the world,” said Redman. “Chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes are prevalent here. They affect our communities, our neighbors, our family members. Here at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, we are focused on understanding how these chronic diseases begin. As a world-renowned center of nutrition and metabolic research, people everywhere are relying on Pennington Biomedical to make discoveries that empower men, women, and children to lead healthier lives today and benefit the health of future generations.”

Pennington Biomedical’s scientists conduct basic research that reveals new insights into chronic diseases at the molecular and cellular levels. Based on those discoveries, clinical trials are developed to test new treatments. More than 44,000 volunteers have participated in the center’s clinical trials and Pennington Biomedical scientists have been involved in testing all obesity medications on the market today, as well as all key diabetes medications.

Alongside pharmaceuticals and medical treatments, lifestyle interventions are also developed and tested. The DASH—dietary approaches to stop hypertension—diet is just one example of a Pennington Biomedical-led breakthrough that consistently ranks among the most successful approaches for people working to maintain healthy eating behaviors. Dr. John Kirwan, the center’s executive director, points to obesity as one of the costliest medical conditions in terms of health care expenses and the personal costs to individuals and families.

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“We’re continually addressing this issue and working to identify solutions not only based on drugs, but on changing behavior and educating the public,” said Kirwan. “It’s not about the size of the problem—it’s about what’s at stake. Our goal is to eradicate obesity. Is it aspirational? Yes. Is it achievable? Absolutely.”

Kirwan explained that it’s also a team effort. The center is unique in that it houses hundreds of researchers with a wide range of expertise, all working toward discoveries in a common field. The center also partners with local and regional hospitals, as well as more than 300 institutions worldwide.

“Our scientists really bring a passion and an enthusiasm for their work,” Kirwan shared. “They have a tremendous depth of knowledge and are leaders in their fields. They work hard each and every day to find solutions for the tough health and medical problems that face the state and the nation.”

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