Pennington Biomedical Researcher Dr. Jennifer Caldwell Awarded Pilot Funding for "Linking Genetics and Improving Nutrition in Scotlandville, LA."

Baton Rouge, LA, April 28, 2024 --( Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Dr. Jennifer Caldwell was named as one of four early-stage investigators to be selected to receive pilot funding of $50,000 from the Forge AHEAD Center, a regional comprehensive research center located at the University of Alabama Birmingham. With a primary focus on the Deep South, the Forge AHEAD Center granted the pilot funding to these investigators for their innovative research structured to improve the health outcomes for cardiometabolic diseases across the region.

Dr. Caldwell, who is an assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical, was selected for her upcoming project “Linking GAINS: Linking Genetics and Improving Nutrition in Scotlandville.” The support from Forge AHEAD is a testament to the center’s dedication to funding projects that can meaningfully contribute to fostering community-focused health initiatives and combating health disparities.

“I am primarily interested in combining genetic ancestry analysis and community engaged interventions, and my ‘Linking GAINS’ project is intended to do just that,” said Dr. Jennifer Caldwell, who is the director of the Public Health Genomics and Health Equity Laboratory. “The support from Forge AHEAD is truly an honor, as it demonstrates their belief that my study will further support their mission. I look forward to working with them as we discover more about the roots of health issues in our local communities.”

In addition to funding, the selected scholars will receive strategic guidance and mentorship, intended to empower them to carry out research that will have a positive impact in their respective areas.

Dr. Caldwell’s research study, “Linking GAINS,” is a community-engaged project focusing educating African Americans on their genetic makeup and what it means for their health outcomes. The project emerged from marketplaces for fresh produce and nutritious ingredients sponsored by Southern University Agriculture Research and Extension Center. The marketplaces targeted communities in North Baton Rouge, including Scotlandville, where the impact of living in a food desert is commonly felt.

The project will provide nutritional food and cooking classes tailored to the limited resources of a food desert. Additionally, the study will provide participants with access to primary health care professionals, physical activity sessions, various screenings and more. The project is also designed to provide participants with lifestyle changes aligned to their individual genetic background and will provide genetic testing for chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“From cells to society, Pennington Biomedical is proud to deliver research results to our hometown community and around the world,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical. “I am proud that Dr. Caldwell’s research has been so favorably received by the Forge AHEAD Center, as their support furthers Dr. Caldwell’s ability to bring this research and service to a wider audience in Baton Rouge.”

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 a campus of the LSU System. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 530 employees within a network of 44 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.
Pennington Biomedical Research Center
Ernie Ballard