A Year-by-Year Review



  • Pennington Biomedical begins celebrating its 30th anniversary of scientific milestones and achievements including publishing 5,000 peer-reviewed articles cited in scientific literature 128,000 times, developing 300 institutional partners across 24 countries, and opening clinical research trial participation to over 44,000 Louisiana volunteers.
  • Dr. John Kirwan, former Director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center and Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, joins Pennington Biomedical as its sixth Executive Director.
  • The DASH diet is selected as U.S. News & World Report’s #1 Diet for the eighth year in a row.
  • Former Executive Directors Drs. Claude Bouchard and Steven Heysmfield are ranked among the most cited scholars in the world, according to the Google Scholar Citations database.
  • Center scientists discovered a novel biomarker that may provide the new answers necessary to create a diagnostic tool for hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure. The condition, if left untreated, can lead to ever-worsening and possibly life-threatening episodes of low blood sugar.
  • Pennington Biomedical study results from one of the first and longest trials to explore the effects of calorie restriction on humans revealed that cutting caloric intake by 15% for 2 years slowed aging and metabolism and protected against age-related disease.
  • Dr. Leanne Redman, a Pennington Biomedical scientist, receives the 2018 National Postdoctoral Association Garnett-Powers & Associates, Inc. Mentor Award from the National Postdoctoral Association.
  • Researchers at Pennington Biomedical are awarded $4.5 million in funding support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to work with two other research institutions to conduct the study "A Pragmatic Family Centered Approach to Childhood Obesity Treatment" that will compare and evaluate the effectiveness of two childhood obesity clinical treatment options.
  • The Comparative Biology Core (CBC) provided laboratory animal care services for thirty Pennington scientists who use animal models to study a variety of human diseases including type 2 diabetes and associated metabolic diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. On average the CBC housed and cared for approximately 6,200 mice and 130 rats per day. This is presently one of the largest rodent feeding and metabolic research units in the world.
  • Invented a technique for visualizing astrocyte – neuron communications in vitro, in real time. This method was used to determine that astrocytes are important detectors of glucose in the brain. This discovery may revolutionize thinking about nutrient detection, CNS control of metabolism and feeding behavior.
  • Discovered and described a new population of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus that are regulated by the hormone leptin and importantly regulate the rewarding value of sugar and fat. Furthermore, we have established the use of optogenetics – a novel state-of-the-art technology – to allow the controlled stimulation of specific neurons; we were the first laboratory to introduce this technology in the state of Louisiana.


  • Pennington Biomedical scientists publish first study of its size (16,000 participants) that shows early weight gain during pregnancy correlates with childhood obesity.
  • A better body mass index (BMI) calculator for adolescents called a triponderal mass index (TMI) is outlined by Pennington Biomedical scientists and their colleagues in an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense continues a 29-year partnership with Pennington Biomedical by choosing the center to lead a new $6.7 million multiyear study of military nutrition and metabolism.
  • The LA CaTS Center receives a renewal grant of $20 million from NIH to continue collaboration with seven Louisiana health research institutions.
  • The Pennington Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC) receives its third renewal of a five year grant from the NIH to explore “nutrition and metabolic health through the lifespan.”


  • A new study showed that watching videos of kids eating vegetables increases preschoolers' real-life vegetable consumption.
  • Pennington Biomedical was awarded a $1.35 million grant from the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) to continue work studying the mechanisms through which our bodies detect and respond to altered dietary protein intake.
  • Additional data collected from the CALERIE study revealed that cutting calories by up to 25 percent is linked to better health-related quality of life in non-obese adults. The results show those who restricted calories had improved mood, reduced tension, improved general health and sexual drive and improved sleep.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) awarded Pennington Biomedical a five-year, $5.4 million grant to continue its research in "Nutrition and Metabolic Health through the Lifespan" in its Nutrition and Obesity Research Center.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) awarded Pennington Biomedical a $1.1 million grant for "The regulation and activation of STATs in adipocytes" to continue work on a family of transcriptions factors—STAT5—which may contribute to sugar and fat metabolism and to the production of adipokines, a type of signaling protein in fat tissue.
  • Pennington Biomedical's Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention began conducting a first-of-its-kind study aiming to slow memory loss caused by Alzheimer's disease.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded Pennington Biomedical $2.84 million over five years to study the "Epigenetic Mechanisms in Diabetic Embryopathy" and $2.73 million over five years for the "Molecular Basis for Individual Susceptibility to Neural Tube Defects."
  • Pennington Biomedical partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense on the first-ever study to begin exploring how maintaining normal testosterone levels can preserve warfighter endurance during physically demanding, low-calorie missions.
  • The National Institutes of Health awarded $1.4 million to Pennington Biomedical to expand pediatric research as a part of the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.
  • Pennington Biomedical was awarded $1.2 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s common funds grant under the program "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions" (SPARC) to better map the peripheral nervous system in hopes of better fighting chronic diseases such as obesity.
  • Pennington Biomedical released the results of the 2016 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth in coordination with the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. The report shows three quarters of children in the United States are currently not meeting physical activity recommendations, putting them at risk for future chronic disease.
  • Pennington Biomedical's Center of Biomedical Excellence (COBRE) was renewed and transitioned from a Phase II to a Phase III Center. The five-year, $5.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) will support the COBRE's goals of expanding the institution's scientific and intellectual infrastructure by mentoring promising junior faculty to independence and expanding the critical mass of investigators dedicated to the study of metabolic disease.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded $5.28 million to Pennington Biomedical to study the molecular mechanisms behind the benefits of exercise through the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans (MoTrPAC) program.
  • Pennington Biomedical was awarded $2.54 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Institute on Aging (NIA) for a landmark study aiming to understand whether controlling blood pressure through aerobic exercise and/or medication can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The study is named Reducing the Risk for Alzheimer's Disease (rrAD).
  • Pennington Biomedical was awarded $3.7 million over three years from the Louisiana Department of Education for "Dietary Assessment and Counseling."
  • Discovered novel regulation of an organelle in skeletal muscle that is involved in lipid catabolism, which could lead to development of therapeutic strategies to limit excess lipid accumulation that adversely impacts insulin sensitivity.


  • Released the Childhood Obesity Treatment Toolkit across Louisiana, a guide for physicians and pediatricians that provides integrative strategies for reducing and treating obesity in children.
  • New president and CEO named to lead the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and is affiliated with Pennington Biomedical Research Center to accept, manage and steward private philanthropy through unrestricted, restricted and endowed gifts from individuals, corporation and foundations.
  • Launched the Elite Health & Wellness Program, a comprehensive approach to weight loss, offering science-based solutions for people in the community.
  • Concluded the landmark SPRINT study, which showed that lowering blood pressure to 120 mm Hg could decrease the risk of heart attack or other cardiac events by almost a third.
  • Awarded a $9.2 million grant renewal from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) to continue the Center for Research on Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome's (BRC) work investigating native plants and other natural products for the prevention and treatment of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic conditions.
  • Participated in two of the largest genetic studies of obesity to date, which found never before discovered markers that better define the risk of obesity.
  • Pennington Biomedical plays a role in two of the largest-ever genome-wide studies of obesity, which could lead to a better understanding of the causes of the disease and new evidence-based treatments.
  • A new discovery shows that mice lacking a certain gene in their skeletal muscle that allows their bodies to burn fat, adapted to burn sugar instead. This finding could lay the foundation for future development of new treatments for obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • The CALERIE study shows that restricting calories by 25 percent daily over a two-year period, the significant weight and fat loss, along with marked improvements in metabolism and other health indicators, may lead to healthier aging by reducing risk factors for chronic disease.
  • Uncovered two new molecules which have anti-inflammatory activity with reduced impact on pancreatic beta-cell function and adipocyte differentiation. These molecules will be tested in animals and could be a part of clinical research in the next five years as improved therapies for conditions with chronic inflammation, such as organ transplantation, leukemia and Crohn’s disease.
  • The results of the landmark SPRINT study show that more intensive management of high blood pressure significantly reduces rates of cardiovascular disease and lowers risk of death in a group of adults 50 years and earlier with high blood pressure. The target systolic pressure in this study is 120 mm HG, as compared with the previous target systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg.
  • Discovered, using live cell calcium-imaging methods developed at Pennington, a connection between the inflammatory cytokine IL-1 and the mechanism regulating reduced release of insulin by beta cells in the pancreas. This approach may lead to an explanation behind the eventual failure of insulin release by obese individuals with type 2 diabetes.
  • In collaboration with researchers across the globe in two of the largest genome-wide studies of obesity, our scientists helped to identify 97 common genetic variants that increase the risk of obesity – 56 of which were discovered for the first time. They also found 49 genetic markers that contribute to where body fat is stored – 33 of which were previously unknown. This is the first time scientists have found a stable set of genetic markers that define the genetic predisposition to obesity.


  • Pennington Biomedical researchers begin NIH-funded D2d study that aims to discover if vitamin D supplementation may prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
  • Researchers prove that older adults who participate in 20 minutes a day of moderate physical activity are shown to maintain their ability to walk at a rate of 18% higher than those who do not exercise.
  • Pennington Biomedical researchers study the hormone FGF21 and its effects on the body's response to protein. FGF21 levels are found to influence metabolism and body weight.
  • Governor Bobby Jindal and the Center announce the formation of a Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Program. Pennington Biomedical opens the Translation Research Clinic for Children, a newly renovated space for activities and research.
  • The Center hires its first chief business development officer, Dr. David Winwood, underscoring the importance of moving research discoveries focusing on health, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases into the global marketplace.


  • Results from an NIH funded study reveal a vitamin D supplement helps prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense awards Pennington Biomedical another research grant. The objective of this program is to identify scientific evidence for developing improved combat rations, food products, dining facility menus and heath policies for the military. This new research project is based on a 23-year history of collaborative research between Pennington Biomedical and the Department of Defense.


  • Pennington Biomedical receives a NIH grant to improve the health and well-being of female collegiate athletes.
  • A Pennington Biomedical study finds having a TV in the bedroom puts children at higher risk for developing obesity.


  • Researchers at Pennington Biomedical discover the mechanism that leads to an inflammatory response in obesity.
  • The center participated in the ACT Now research study. Pre-diabetic individuals were given a medication called Pioglitazone. Scientists discovered that the medication reduced the chance of developing the disease by 72% - the largest decrease in the conversion rate of pre-diabetes to diabetes ever demonstrated.


  • A Pennington Biomedical researcher isolates the human genome that influences the effect of aerobic exercise on an individual's health.
  • A nutrient in blueberries is shown to improve factors related to pre-diabetes as well as decrease inflammation in obese individuals.
  • A new 90,000 square foot clinical research building is opened with funds appropriated by the Louisiana State Legislature.
  • Research reveals aerobic exercise and resistance training improve glycemic levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.


  • Pennington Biomedical launches The Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention. IDRP is a statewide research effort focused on early detection and a cure for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
  • A web-based platform and application is designed and licensed to faculty startup Body Evolution Technologies to impact healthy body image, eating disorders, and obesity risk-factor prevention.


  • Penningtons Biomedical's Botanical Research Center partners with Zen-Bio, Inc. to study the role of natural compounds in metabolic disease and obesity.


  • Pennington Biomedical's Drs. William Hansel and Carola Leuschner collaborate with researchers at LSU A&M and the LSU AgCenter to develop cancer-fighting compounds now licensed by Esperance Pharmaceuticals, LLP.


  • Pennington Biomedical hosts the first international symposium on infectious obesity, the theory that a virus may cause some human obesity. The symposium is led by Pennington Biomedical researcher Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, the first scientist to pose this theory called "infectobesity."
  • The Pennington Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) is established with an award from the National Center for Research Resources at NIH. The Center provides support for outstanding junior faculty at the Pennington Center as they transition from training to independence and establish their own research programs.


  • Pennington Biomedical receives a NIH center grant to establish a Center of Excellence in Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome.  The center studies how plant extracts can treat metabolic syndrome and type 2 Diabetes.
  • Pennington Biomedical receives a NIH Center Grant to establish a NIH-NIDDK Clinical Nutrition Research Unit to identify prenatal causes of obesity.
  • The Center, in cooperation with the LSU Health Science Center, confers its first horary doctorate for research on obese and diabetic mice, which led to the discovery of leptin and its critical role in hunger and satiety.


  • The new basic science laboratory opens.
  • Louisiana-based biotechnology firm NuPotential begins operation in collaboration with scientists at Pennington Biomedical. NuPotential reprograms cell lines that can be used in therapies for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.


  • The NIH awards Pennington Biomedical a grant to study the potential benefits of long-term calorie reduction on aging.


  • Results are published from the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP Study) in which Pennington Biomedical was a key research site. Groundbreaking findings conclude that at least 10 million Americans at high risk for type 2 diabetes can significantly lower their chances of getting the disease through diet and exercise.


  • The DASH Diet results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine and experts conclude the diet significantly lowers blood pressure.


  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture works with Pennington Biomedical to start the Lower Mississippi River Delta Nutrition and Health Initiative.
  • Construction and assembly of the transgenic laboratory is completed.


  • Pennington Biomedical is selected by NASA to study the role of nutrition and metabolism in preventing bone and muscle loss during long-term space flight.
  • NIH asks Pennington Biomedical to study the effect of diet on reducing or preventing high blood pressure. This project is called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH trial. Pennington Biomedical is also named an official nutritional institute by the U.S. Dairy Council.


  • Pennington Biomedical is selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of diet on risk factors for heart disease.  The Center also publishes its first scientific report.


  • The Center begins its first clinical research after receiving a U.S. Army grant to study the effects of diet on soldiers' performance.
  • Pennington Biomedical also begins clinical trials with volunteers to study the effects of eating habits on body weight and metabolism.


  • Pennington Biomedical Research Center opens and begins operations. The first researchers arrive at the Center.