News Release

NIH grant to fund network of data warehouses for Baton Rouge health research institutions

The Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science Center to administer an NIH grant of $1.3 Million for Pennington Biomedical, Tulane-facilitated health data projects

Grant and Award Announcement

Pennington Biomedical Research Center


image: The LA CaTS Center combines 10 major Louisiana academic, research and health care delivery institutions into a unified research infrastructure, with an overall theme of "addressing health disparities and improving health outcomes in our underserved population with chronic diseases." view more 

Credit: LA CaTS

BATON ROUGE – The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Louisiana Clinical & Translational Science Center, or LA CaTS, a grant of nearly $1.3 million to support the efforts of in-state healthcare institutions to share health data for research purposes across a common structure.

Awarded as a single grant, the funds will be primarily split between two LA CaTS member institutions: nearly $780,000 for the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and $490,000 for Tulane University School of Medicine. Together, these two projects will strengthen the LA CaTS Center’s capacity to address health care disparities, supporting community specific research, as well as fostering greater patient engagement through a tailored approach to health care.

“This grant to LA CaTS will enhance our ability to pursue research requiring large clinical databases,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical and Director for LA CaTS. “The Information Age is allowing scientists and researchers, like those of the LA CaTS participant members, to analyze large-scale data like never before. In doing so, they are discovering patterns and observing trends in all sorts of diseases that were once impossible to see. This Baton Rouge area collaboration will result in Louisiana-based researchers generating new studies to pursue improved health outcomes for our residents.”

The projects administered by Pennington Biomedical will include the creation of clinical data warehouses for secure and anonymous linkage of data from multiple sources, such as linking data from healthcare providers to data from the Louisiana Tumor Registry. It will include four partner healthcare providers in Baton Rouge – Our Lady of the Lake Health, Woman’s Hospital, Baton Rouge General, and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Built with a common structure using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR, standards, these warehouses will enable Baton Rouge providers and researchers to efficiently assemble data required for large-scale data projects, as well as for projects toward rare conditions.

“Pennington Biomedical researchers actively collaborate with Baton Rouge area providers. This network of data warehouses is intended to make such collaborations more numerous and enable more projects directed toward specific Baton Rouge health issues. Using such a network to achieve depth of coverage across a large geographic area is innovative,” said Dr. Ronald Horswell, Associate Professor of Research - Population and Public Health at Pennington Biomedical. “Pennington Biomedical investigators have collaborated with researchers from these Baton Rouge-based healthcare partners for years, and this collaborative strengthens our ability to solve even more complex health problems.”

This network of data warehouses will be called the Baton Rouge Health District Research Data Collaborative, as its creation was organized in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Health District. It will also work actively with Ochsner Health, which has its own clinical data warehouse. The first planned research project to utilize this network of warehouses will include data from the Louisiana Tumor Registry.

“Coalition building among our regional health and life science institutions for the betterment of community health is central to the Baton Rouge Health District,” said Steven Ceulemans, Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Health District. “I can think of no better example of this synergy than by uniting Pennington Biomedical’s world-class research strengths with the clinical expertise and information within our regional medical centers through this data collaborative.”

Tulane will administer the second portion of the grant, which will finance the development of an application used by clinicians to support patient-specific diabetes control goals. Pairing EHR and an AI-based risk model – developed at Tulane by Drs. Lizhen Shi and Vivian Fonseca – the application will generate personalized treatment goals tailored for patients with Type 2 diabetes. This will happen at the point of care as a pop up in the EMR, allowing an immediate real -time discussion of goals between the clinician and patient. 

“At Tulane University, we are excited about the opportunity to implement a clinician-facing application which will enable clinicians and patients to jointly establish patient-specific optimal diabetes control goals,” said Dr. Fonseca, Section Chief of Endocrinology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. “These projects will greatly enhance the LA CaTS Center’s ability to address health care disparities and will set a precedent for use of FHIR-based applications for purposes of precision medicine and fostering greater patient engagement.”

LA CaTS is a collaboration of 10 research and health care provider organizations, committed to addressing health disparities and improving health outcomes for those with chronic diseases in Louisiana’s underserved populations. It serves as a clinical translational science center for Louisiana, fostering collaboration among major academic and biomedical research institutions in the state.

Across both projects, the use of large-scale data and the latest in technological advances greatly grows the LA CaTS Center’s capacity to address health care disparities. The data warehouse will make it feasible for the Center to expand data accessibility to smaller, rural providers, and the app developed at Tulane will apply FHIR for precision medicine and greater patient engagement.

“On behalf of Our Lady of the Lake, we are excited about what this partnership and collaboration can foster,” said Charles Spicer, president of Our Lady of the Lake Health. “We believe that the Data Collaborative will foster research motivated by and directly relevant to the needs of Louisiana itself and the Baton Rouge area. This unique opportunity for collaboration among researchers is a tremendous win for patients in South Louisiana.”

“At Woman’s Hospital, we are proud of the exceptional care we deliver to the women of Baton Rouge, and we are proud to be among America’s best maternity hospitals,” Rene Ragas, president and CEO of Woman’s Hospital. “We cannot fulfill these goals without taking an innovative approach to women’s health, and so I’m proud that Woman’s Hospital is a partner in the new data collaborative. We are committed to growing this important collaboration among the leading health providers in South Louisiana.”

“As one of the first projects linking data between healthcare providers and the Louisiana Tumor Registry, I am thrilled to think of the possibilities that this collaboration can generate, especially in the potential development of cancer treatments,” Jonas Fontenot, president and CEO of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “On behalf of the entire Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center team, we are proud to play a key role in bringing this innovative technology to Baton Rouge.”

“Since its inception, I’ve thought of the health district not as just a geographical location, but as a data sharing structure that I believe can improve healthcare in our community,” said Edgardo Tenreiro, president and CEO of Baton Rouge General. “This collaborative is the first substantiative step towards that infrastructure and I’m immensely proud of the work that’s got us to this point and of the work we’ll do together in the future.”

“Creation of the Baton Rouge Health District Data Collaborative is made possible through the work of several key, local healthcare providers,” said Eric McMillen, CEO of Ochsner Medical Center – Baton Rouge. “With our extensive database, Ochsner has experience providing information for collaborative research, and we are proud contributors to a project of this scale. This data collaborative aligns with the mission of Ochsner and all collaborators to provide the best in health solutions for our patients.”

About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with LSU.

The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is a state-of-the-art research facility on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge.

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