John Kirwan, director of the Metabolic Translational Research Center and professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, has been named executive director of LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Kirwan's appointment is pending approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors, which will vote on the matter Friday. If approved, he would start working Jan. 1.

Kirwan leads an internationally acclaimed biomedical research program focused on diabetes, obesity, nutrition and exercise.

LSU President F. King Alexander praised Kirwan's record in diabetes-related research and said that made him the perfect fit for Pennington. 

“I am excited to see the effect his direction has on the center’s existing efforts toward improving health outcomes for Louisiana citizens and its already stellar research portfolio,” Alexander said.

Kirwan will succeed Dr. Donna Ryan, who has been serving as interim executive director of Pennington. She replaced Dr. William T. Cefalu, who left Pennington in February after nearly five years as executive director to become the chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association.

Kirwan also is a professor of physiology and of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. His professional expertise includes almost 30 years of research, teaching and service in the obesity and diabetes fields.

“As the pandemic of chronic disease and obesity garner more attention internationally, Pennington Biomedical is well-positioned to be a leader in clinical research on those issues, as well as discovering new treatments, and providing outreach to support healthier lifestyles,” Kirwan said.

He has published more than 200 scientific papers related to diabetes and metabolism in prestigious peer-reviewed journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Diabetes and Diabetes Care. Among his most important research contributions is the discovery that for a significant number of patients, diabetes can be put into long-term remission by surgically altering the physiology of the intestine and stomach.

Kirwan received his clinical physiology training at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; his doctorate in human bioenergetics at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana; his master’s degree in exercise biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst; and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Limerick, Ireland.

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