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May 25, 2012

ULM & Pennington partner in research

On Friday, May 25, ULM President Nick J. Bruno, Ph.D, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center Executive Director Steven B. Heymsfield, M.D., signed a memorandum of understanding outlining plans for collaborative research on geriatrics, botanicals, and pharmacology.

ULM pharmacy and gerontology faculty will work with Pennington faculty to expand existing sponsored research at both sites. Faculty will focus on the triggers for chronic diseases such as dementia, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Heymsfield said, "The ULM-Pennington Biomedical relationship will foster important research and clinical collaborations that emerge from the unique capabilities of each of our institutions."

The collective forces of the two institutions will also foster new clinical trials, said Jeff Keller, Ph.D., director of Pennington's Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention.

"The collaboration between ULM and PBRC on the aging and dementia studies has a lot of obvious synergies. It is going to immediately increase the quality of research at both campuses, increase opportunities for new grants, and set the stage for clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease in the Monroe area."

Combining academic and financial resources is crucial, said ULM President Nick J. Bruno, Ph.D. "ULM and Pennington house some of the nation's best health science and pharmacy experts; it only makes sense to join together and increase our positive impact on Louisiana health."

One of the ULM pharmacy professors involved in the new partnership is Amal Khalil Kaddoumi, who is an assistant professor of pharmaceutics with expertise in Alzheimer's disease, a serious neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting the elderly.

She explained, "My research focuses on studying the role of transport proteins located at the blood-brain barrier in the pathology of Alzheimer's. We believe that decreased function of these transport proteins impair the clearance of beta amyloid from the brain, which might largely contribute to the formation of brain plaques and Alzheimer's disease progression," she said.

ULM's role in this project is vital, said Bill McCown, Ph.D., interim director of ULM's Graduate School.

"For reasons that are unknown, northeast Louisiana has an extraordinarily high rate of Alzheimer's disease. We also have some of the least healthy seniors. Furthermore, we have a demographically different group of potential volunteers than the rest of the state. Under the direction of Dr. Karen Frye, ULM's Biedenharn Endowed Chair of Gerontology, we will have access to volunteers from rural and minority communities. We believe that up to 50 percent of our participants will be from these underrepresented groups."

Those interested in participating in the study, which involves screening for dementia and fall risk contact the IDRP at (225) 763-2973, 1-877-276-8306 or

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

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. It is a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical 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. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more information, see

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