By Marsha Shuler
Capitol news bureau
September 08, 2012
The LSU hospital system’s outpatient medical clinics will become a laboratory for clinical trials and studies as part of a new collaboration of higher education institutions seeking ways to prevent and treat chronic diseases.
The new initiative will be financed through a nearly $20 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant to support biomedical research. The grant, announced Thursday, will fund the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center.
“The whole purpose of this center is to move discovery from the bench to the clinical area and then to the population and community,” said Dr. William Cefalu, associate executive director of clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
The LSU outpatient clinics will play a key role as various research institutions look for the numbers of people they need to see if promising disease treatments or prevention programs work, Cefalu said.
“The clinical trials will be offered to everyone,” Cefalu said. But because of the number of clinics and patients associated with LSU hospitals “that’s going to be a huge advantage to us,” he said.
Cefalu said recruitment of participants can now occur across campuses and in various areas of the state where there have been barriers in the past.
The four primary participating institutions are Pennington, LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, Tulane Health Sciences Center and the LSU Health Care Services Division, which oversees seven hospitals and related clinics across south Louisiana. Also participating are four research partners: LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, Xavier University of Louisiana, Research Institution for Children at Children’s Hospital and LSU in Baton Rouge.
The center works under Pennington’s umbrella.
“All of this is to facilitate research,” Cefalu said. “Researchers can take advantage of expertise on other campuses.”
The center will focus on nutritional and chronic diseases, health disparities, and expanded clinical trials. The various partners are also committed to the identification and fostering of the next generation of scientists and clinical researchers.
Cefalu said the grant will fund a number of positions at each institution as well as research.
Pennington Executive Director Steven Heymsfield noted the “local epidemic of obesity and diabetes.” Heymsfield said the “translational approach” will lead to new discoveries and treatments.
“This network of institutions ... will promote health and longevity among Louisianians,” he said.