Buck Institute Sends Call to Action Regarding Unprecedented Increase in Rate of Global Aging.

New census report underlines need for increased focus on and funding for age research

The Buck Institute for Age Research is calling for the nation to act following the recent U.S. Census Bureau report, which shows that the proportion of people who are age 65 and older will double from 7 to 14 percent of the world’s population by 2040.  The report additionally projects that within 10 years there will be more people aged 65 and older than children under 5 years of age – a first in human history.  This unprecedented demography highlights the need for increased research on the aging process and its link to chronic debilitating disease.

“This report validates the urgency that most scientists involved in age research have articulated for many years.  It is imperative that our nation, and other nations in a position to fund scientific research, focus on and target more research dollars to deal with the impending ‘elder boom’,” said Judith Campisi, PhD, Buck Institute faculty member.  “Our current health care crisis pales in comparison to the medical burden awaiting us in the demographic pipeline.”

Aging is the single largest common risk factor for most chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  Research at the Buck Institute is based on the premise that understanding the aging process is crucial for the development of biomedical interventions that can delay the onset of these diseases – not one by one, but broadly, if not in toto.

The potential personal and economic benefits of broad interventions into the aging process is obvious.  For example, 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – a figure that is expected to rise to 7.7 million by 2030.  The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid, and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year, not taking into account the personal suffering of those afflicted and their caregivers.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a delay of six years in the onset and progression of the disease could achieve annual Medicare savings of $51 billion by 2015 and $444 billion by 2050.  Annual savings of Medicaid spending on nursing homes would also be significant  -- $10 billion in 2015 and $70 billion by 2050.

“The Buck Institute’s research program is uniquely focused at the intersection between the fundamental aging process and chronic age-related disease,” said Robert Butler, MD, President of the International Longevity Center USA, and a founding Director of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health.  “This type of research is poised to offer real solutions to a looming crisis that needs the type of fiscal and intellectual commitment it took to put men on the moon."

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), which commissioned the census report, is the Federal agency charged with leading the broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend healthy active years of life.  The NIA’s budget for 2009 is estimated at $1.08 billion.  The NIA is one of 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is also the primary Federal agency that funds Alzheimer’s and related disease research.  Thus, the NIH, which spends over $30.5 billion annually on medical research, currently allocates less than one half of one percent of its resources to the NIA.

“Very often, when the government and society have brought full attention and commitment to a medical problem, significant breakthroughs have occurred,” said Campisi, citing the near eradication of childhood diseases such as polio, measles, rubella and mumps in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. “At some point we decided that we would no longer tolerate children falling victim to these diseases; we can do the same for diseases of aging,” Campisi said. “Growing older does not need to translate to a decade or more of debilitating illness.”

About the Buck Institute:
The Buck Institute is the only freestanding institute in the United States that is devoted solely to basic research on aging and age-associated disease. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to extending the healthspan, the healthy years of each individual’s life.  The National Institute on Aging designated the Buck a “Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Biology of Aging,” one of just five centers in the country. The Buck Institute received $ 6.5 million from the NIA in 2009.  In 2010, 57 percent of its $31.5 million budget is expected to come from NIH research grants.   Buck Institute scientists work in an innovative, interdisciplinary setting to understand the mechanisms of aging and to discover new ways of detecting, preventing and treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke.  Collaborative research at the Institute is supported by new developments in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics technology.

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