Researchers in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport have been awarded a $20 million federal grant to continue biomedical research over the next five years for chronic disease prevention and improved health care in underserved populations in the state.

The National Institutes of Health funding, pending availability, is the second grant awarded to support the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center, bringing total funding to $40 million over 10 years.

The LA CaTS Center, begun in 2012, facilitates research among various institutions around the state.

The nucleus of the center are LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, the grant recipient; LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans; and Tulane Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

Other participating institutions as research partners are LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, LSU in Baton Rouge, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, University Medical Center in New Orleans, Ochsner Health System in New Orleans and the School of Dentistry of the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

NIH funding to the center provides clinical researchers and medical personnel in Louisiana greater access to resources they need for research that is aimed at reducing chronic diseases that occur frequently 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 cancer rates are above the national average. More than half of Louisiana’s youth are overweight or obese.

LA CaTS Center participants research is focused on nutrition and chronic disease, health disparities and on expanded clinical trials — all designed to improve healthcare.

“The LA CaTS Center supports an unprecedented collaborative effort among our state’s academic institutions,” said Dr. Donna Ryan, Pennington Biomedical’s executive director and 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.

Co-principal investigators are Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, and Dr. Lee Hamm, dean of Tulane University School of Medicine.