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New Clinical Research Building Underway

Released: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

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BATON ROUGE - Governor Bobby Jindal today joined leaders of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to turn over the first dirt for a new 90,000 square foot, $25 million clinical research building, including design fees, construction costs, furniture, equipment and a contingency fee.

Joining the governor, Claude Bouchard, Ph.D., executive director of the Center, said research had outgrown the current clinical research building, and several temporary office trailers were added during the clinic’s history. The new construction will expand the Center to 635,000 square feet of total research space, and allow its researchers to stay current in a highly competitive field.

“Within our clinical research labs, the citizens of Baton Rouge come face-to-face with some of the world’s leading scientists,” Bouchard said, “They participate in research leading to tomorrow’s treatments. With this new facility, we will be able to undertake many more and even larger clinical trials, which means impacting lives as well as our economy.”

The Center has developed a strong clinical research program since its first trials in 1991. More than 31,900 individuals have voluntarily undergone screening for inclusion and more than 16,000 individuals have gone on to participate in more then 350 clinical research projects.

The new construction is key to attracting more and larger research grants designed to find preventive measures and treatments for chronic illness. According to Bouchard, the new facility will generate an additional $20 million annually, and later much more. Approximately 300 new faculty and support staff positions plus all indirect jobs will have an economic impact on the Baton Rouge area of about $38 million annually.

“This new building will usher in an exciting phase of new growth for the Center,” said Bouchard, “including creating more knowledge-based jobs, tripling research space dedicated to clinical studies and expanding opportunities to translate basic research discoveries from the laboratory to testing these advancements in individuals through clinical trials.”

The new research building will also be home to a new endeavor called La CaTS (Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center). The LA CaTS Center is a collaboration among all medical schools and key research universities and research organizations, led by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, with a mission to develop the discipline of clinical and translational science, to increase the quality and quantity of clinical research conducted in Louisiana, and to train the next generation of clinical research scientists.

The governor, legislative leaders, and city and state leaders recognized that one of the few limiting factors to growth in this high-tech research arena is the limited space that is necessary to conduct large-scale clinical trials. Following the Governor’s lead in a special session last year, the legislature approved approximately $50 million for Center expansion, renovation, new equipment and recruitment of leading scientists.

“This groundbreaking represents a monumental step in Pennington’s continued expansion and ongoing efforts to attract top research talent and clinical research funding to our state,” said Governor Jindal. “In essence – this is a new cylinder in the economic engine that is Pennington.”

Several key discoveries associated with the Center’s clinical research include: the DASH diet, where in collaboration with Harvard, Duke University and the University of Oregon, researchers demonstrated that a diet built on fruits, vegetables and dairy products lowers blood pressure as effectively as prescribed medication; a landmark study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, in which researchers demonstrated type 2 diabetes can be prevented in high risk individuals with a modest weight loss and 150 minutes of physical activity a week; and the discovery that an inhaled form of insulin used to treat diabetes can work as effectively as injections.




Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Governor Jindal (near Center) is joined by Paula Pennington de la Bretonne to his right and Dr. Claude Bouchard, executive director of the Center, to his left in breaking ground on a new clinical research facility. Joining in are LSU System president Dr. John Lombardi, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden, Dr. Sally Clausen, commissioner of higher education, state representative Steve Carter, state senator Sharon Weston-Broome and Baton Rouge Area Chamber president Adam Knapp. Front Row: Rep. Avon Honey, Rep. Michael Jackson, Rep. Steve Carter, Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, Adam Knapp, President/CEO, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Mayor Melvin “Kip” Holden, Paula de la Bretonne, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Dr. Claude Bouchard, Dr. John Lombardi, President, LSU System, Dr. Sally Clausen, Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Donna Ryan, Associate Executive Director, PBRC. Back Row: Rep. Clif Richardson, Rep. Franklin Foil, Jerry Shea, LSU Board of Supervisors, Henry Barham, LSU Board of Supervisors, Rep. Erich Ponti, Tim Barfield, Executive Director, LA Workforce Commission and Chairman, PBRF.

Photo 2: Architech's Rendering.

Photo 3: Governor Jindal addressing the crowd gathered for the Pennington Biomedical Research Center groundbreaking on new clinical research building.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.