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December 8, 2011

ULM and Pennington Biomedical Research enter innovative agreement

Today, two research engines agreed to join forces and explore geriatric and dementia research for the betterment of Louisiana.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe and Pennington Biomedical Research Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Baton Rouge that will utilize each institution’s expertise and also greatly benefit ULM students and faculty at both institutions.

ULM pharmacy and gerontology faculty will work with Pennington faculty to expand existing sponsored research at both sites.

This effort will involve studying the social, physiological, cellular, molecular, and genetic causes and effects of dementia. This collaboration will add to the partnership the two institutions already share in obesity research.

The new partnership creates research opportunities that may not be possible otherwise, said ULM Pharmacy Dean Benny Blaylock.

Blaylock added, "This collaboration will be of significant benefit in that both institutions will combine considerable research expertise and infrastructure not available at either one alone. In addition, this partnership provides an opportunity for enhanced clinical research and participation of our clinical faculty and pharmacy students in new and ongoing drug studies."

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.

Kaddoumi 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.

“Collaboration with Pennington will provide a great opportunity to develop innovative ideas that will certainly enhance my research as well as that of my colleagues in the department and the college.”

Jeff Keller, director of the dementia institute at Pennington, called the new MOU "very exciting."

“This represents just the beginning of a very promising and productive relationship between ULM and Pennington Biomedical. This initial MOU focuses on some very obvious areas of synergy between the two institutions in terms of geriatrics and dementia research. These efforts will not only help the students and faculty of ULM, and researchers at Pennington Biomedical, but will significantly affect the elderly of Monroe by providing them free dementia screening and other health assessments,” Keller said.

 “I believe these efforts will yield to new approaches on a host of geriatric issues, better health for the elderly in Louisiana, better trained students in Louisiana, and important insight as to the causes and prevention of dementia and falls in the elderly.”

ULM President Nick J. Bruno commended the leadership within ULM’s pharmacy college and Pennington Biomedical.

Bruno said, “ULM’s collaboration with Pennington illustrates what innovations are possible when we think globally and consider the impact of potential resources outside of our normal boundaries. Joined with Pennington Biomedical, ULM’s capabilities are limitless, and that defines higher education.”

More about Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Opened in 1988, the Pennington Center now houses 53 laboratories that span the Center's three programs - Basic Research, Clinical Research, and Population Science – 19 Core Service laboratories, inpatient and outpatient clinics, a research kitchen, an administrative area, and more than $20 million in technologically advanced equipment.

The Center was expanded in 1993 to include the C.B. Pennington Jr. Conference Center, now the C.B. Pennington Jr. Building, residence apartments, and an exercise and fitness facility.

More than 80 faculty members and over 600 physicians, scientists, and support personnel focus their research efforts on 10 research program areas: Epidemiology and Prevention, Physical Activity and Health, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity, Neurodegeneration, Genomics and Molecular Genetics, Stem Cell and Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, and Nutrient Sensing and Signaling.

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