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NIH Awards $20 Million for Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center

Released: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Baton Rouge, LA - A new $20-million federal grant--the second such competitive grant awarded to LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center--will continue to fund collaborative biomedical research being conducted at 10 institutions across Louisiana to improve the health of its citizens during the next five years, officials announced today.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, officially an Institutional Development Award Program Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR), will provide five additional years of funding, pending the availability of funds, for the state's innovative Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center.

The new award increases total federal support for the LA CaTS Center to $40 million across 10 years and continues to build Louisiana's translational research capacity.

Composing the nucleus of the LA CaTS Center are three primary collaborating institutions: Pennington Biomedical, LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and Tulane Health Sciences Center. Other participating institutions and termed research partners, include LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Xavier University of Louisiana, Children's Hospital of New Orleans, LSU in Baton Rouge, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, University Medical Center, Ochsner Health System, and the School of Dentistry of the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

Dr. Donna Ryan, Pennington Biomedical's Executive Director and noted biomedical researcher, is principal investigator for the grant. She succeeds Dr. William T. Cefalu, who developed the LA CaTS Center initiative and now serves as the national American Diabetes Association chief medical and scientific officer.

The LA CaTS Center, begun in 2012, provides an infrastructure across academic institutions in Louisiana to facilitate research in chronic disease prevention and improved healthcare in underserved populations. NIH funding to the LA CaTS Center provides clinical researchers and medical personnel in Louisiana greater access to the resources they need to accelerate research that is aimed at reducing the burden of chronic diseases with high incidence of occurrence among Louisiana's population.

For example, Louisiana ranks among the highest nationally in deaths from chronic diseases with lifestyle as a major contributing factor. It has the fourth highest age-adjusted mortality for cardiovascular disease and its cancer rates are above the national average. More than half of Louisiana's youth are overweight or obese.

"The LA CaTS Center supports an unprecedented collaborative effort among our state's academic institutions. I am fortunate to be aided by Co-Principal investigators, Dr. Steve Nelson and Dr. Lee Hamm" Dr. Ryan said.

"This project is a precedent - setting collaborative effort among Louisiana's three leading institutions in biomedical research," noted Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans. Dr. Lee Hamm, Dean of Tulane University School of Medicine added, "This award will promote and grow our research capacity in clinical and translational areas."

During its first NIH funding cycle, the LA CaTS Center noted seven major accomplishments. Among them was implementing a highly collaborative research infrastructure among all institutions that includes cross-institutional, cross-key component, and multiple-investigator collaborations. Also implemented was facilitated Institutional Review Board review across all institutions to fast-track the mandated federal evaluation designed to protect individuals who volunteer in clinical trials. Health literacy research and education implemented at statewide and national levels through the LA CaTS Center assisted with Louisiana's Medicaid expansion.

Research emphases of the LA CaTS Center participants are nutrition and chronic disease, health disparities, and expanded clinical trials. All are designed to improve healthcare.

"Louisiana's IDeA-CTR network helps build the capacity to conduct clinical and translational research on diseases that are prevalent in the state and that affect medically underserved populations there. This award has resulted in substantial progress developing collaborative research programs, and this next phase of funding will enable further progress and make new inroads addressing health issues that impact the people of Louisiana and the region," said W. Fred Taylor, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research Capacity Building within the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at NIH.

"Research with broad public benefit, such as that supported by the LA CaTS Center, helps LSU to fulfill its mission improving the lives of everyday Louisiana citizens," LSU President F. King Alexander said.

The LA CaTS Center "greatly enhances access of our underserved populations to clinical research and allows us to better identify the causes of health outcomes disparity plaguing Louisiana," said Tulane University President Michael A. Fitts.
Dr. Larry Hollier, Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, said the work of the LA CaTS Center is "critical if we are to address the needs of vulnerable populations and improve public understanding of and support for clinical research."

Dr. G. E. Ghali, Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, applauded the LA CaTS Center's inclusion of inner city and rural safety net clinics. "The importance of these clinics and their patients' participation in research trials that address disparities and better identify barriers to preventive medicine initiatives and chronic disease management cannot be overstated," he said.

For more information on this grant award, please visit lacats.org. Supported in part by 2U54GM104940 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, which funds the "Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center."

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For further information contact:
Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 225-763-2750
LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans, Leslie Capo, 504-568-4806
Tulane University, New Orleans, Mike Strecker, 504-512-1347
LSU Health Science Center- Shreveport, Lisa Babin, 318-675-8769
LSU Baton Rouge-Ernie Ballard, 225-578-5685
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, Richard Tucker, 504-520-5425
LCMC Health, New Orleans, Marybeth Romig, 504-896-2759
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, Amanda Jones Amanda.Jones6@va.gov
Ochsner Health System, New Orleans, Keith M. Darcey, 504-250-2929

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About the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center
The LA CaTS Center is comprised of three primary collaborating institutions in the state, including LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans – and also includes six research partners: LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and in New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana, Children’s Hospital, Ochsner Health System, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, and University Medical Center.  The LA CaTS Center’s vision for Louisiana encompasses the strengths and capacities unique to each member institution and represents a unified, comprehensive approach for targeting prevention, care and research of chronic diseases in the underserved population.  The scholar program is supported in part by U54 GM104940 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health which funds the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center.  For more information, please visit www.lacats.org.