Grant creates first-ever Louisiana research alliance that could save lives

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - They didn't win the lottery, but they kind-of did. Today Baton Rouge's Pennington Biomedical Research Center announced it and seven other Louisiana research institutions are getting $20 million to collaborate on what could be groundbreaking new discoveries - the kind that save lives.

One of the reasons for the grant is that there is no shortage of people with serious illnesses in Louisiana.   Pennington's Steven Heymsfield put it in these terms, "We rank always in the top five in the country for risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and dementia."

Until this news conference, Louisiana's top research institutions had never formally banded together to find new ways to attack those illnesses.  According to Pennington researcher William Cefalu, "Its gonna transform the way we do business in as far as research in Louisiana."

Using a $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the state's top academic research institutions are joining forces to form the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center or La CATS for short. Scientists from the Pennington center, LSU Health Sciences in New Orleans and Shreveport, Tulane and Xavier working together for the first time.

Heymsfield says, "Right now in La, no one institution has the tools needed to go from a basic discovery to up to a treatment that you can go to your drug store or your physician to get and by combining our resources we're going to make that happen." And, make it happen faster.

Whether it's a new way to treat or prevent diabetes or obesity that can cause it, patients at LSU health clinics will be among the first to benefit from discoveries because of its involvement in the alliance.  Many wouldn't be able to afford cutting edge medical otherwise.