The Kennedy lab uses multiple animal models combined with human studies to understand the mechanisms driving biological aging and to develop interventions designed to extend healthspan and lifespan. Murine disease models and stem cell culture studies are also employed to define the underlying links between aging and the onset of chronic conditions.
In yeast, large-scale genetic approaches are used to understand aging holistically in a single organism. In mammals, the lab focuses on validating conserved pathways identified using invertebrates and dissecting how those pathways interface in specific tissues with mechanisms driving aging. Finally, the lab works with drugs and small molecules that modulate aging, trying to understand their mechanisms of action and utility for human studies.
Why it matters
The dominant mode of health care is centered on treating diseases. When it comes to the chronic diseases of aging, which account for most of global health care costs, this strategy has yielded only incremental progress and often resulted in expensive non-curative therapies. We believe that by developing interventions that slow aging, it will be possible to extend human healthspan, delaying the onset of multiple chronic diseases and maintaining healthy function later in life.
Our work in multiple animal models shows that the processes driving aging are conserved among species. Studying these common pathways are enabling the development of therapies that would slow the aging process – forestalling chronic disease.
Brian Kennedy, PhD
Dr. Kennedy earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is well known for his work during his graduate studies with Leonard Guarente, PhD, which led to the discovery that sirtuins (SIR2) modulate aging. He performed postdoctoral studies at the MGH Cancer Center associated with Harvard Medical School. From 2001 to 2010, he held a faculty position at the University of Washington.
He was the president and CEO of the Buck Institute from 2010 to 2016 and remains a professor at the Institute. In addition, he is a visiting professor in medicine and healthy aging at National University Singapore, an adjunct professor in the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, and an affiliate professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington.
Dr. Kennedy has published more than 160 papers in prestigious journals, including Cell, Science, and Nature. He serves as co-editor-in-chief of Aging Cell and is on the editorial board of a number of other scientific journals. He also routinely provides lectures to the public and is active in writing opinion pieces on aging in public media outlets around the world. More recently, Dr. Kennedy has become active in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical arena, serving as a consultant for several companies. He is currently on the board of directors of three companies, including acting as board chair of Mt. Tam Pharmaceuticals. He has also completed research projects for several biotechnology companies.
Lear Brace, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Lear received her PhD from Harvard University in the biological sciences in public health program. She investigated the segmental progeroid disorder, Cockayne syndrome, in the lab of James Mitchell. In the Kennedy lab, Lear is investigating mechanisms of sex dimorphism in type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and aging.
G. G.Garbo Gan Laboratory Technician
Chong He, PhD Glenn Foundation Research Training Scholar
Chong is a postdoctoral fellow at the Buck Institute in the Kennedy lab. Before landing in California, she completed her PhD in chemistry at Peking University in China. Her PhD study focused on multitarget drug design for inflammatory disease. In the Kennedy lab, Chong conducts research into identifying new pharmaceutical candidates that prolong life and health expectancy and determining the potential targets and mechanism of novel aging-regulating compounds using molecular biology analysis and in vitro enzymatic methods in animal models and human cell culture systems.
Yuehmei Hsu, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Yuehmei Hsu got her PhD in basic medical science in Taiwan and joined the Kennedy lab in 2015. Her major work in the Kennedy lab is focused on studying the effect of different compounds on mouse disease models, including maple syrup urine disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. She loves to read books, make new friends, and cook for her friends and family. She also enjoys spending the weekend with her two lovely daughters exploring the Bay Area.
Maria Konovalenko PhD Candidate, USC-Buck Biology of Aging Program
Maria Konovalenko is a student in the USC-Buck Biology of Aging doctoral program. Her research is focused on stem cell aging in respiratory epithelium. Maria has been involved in fighting aging since 2008. She is one of the organizers of the Genetics of Aging and Longevity Conference series. Maria was part of team at the Science for Life Extension Foundation, a Moscow-based nonprofit, from 2008 to 2015 and has been raising funds for longevity and regenerative medicine research from both government and private sources. Maria's background is in molecular biophysics. She got both her bachelor's and master's degrees from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Maria's goal is to help people live to be as old and as healthy as possible using the advances of science and technology.
Jin Young Lee, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Jin Young Lee received her PhD in cellular and molecular biology from the Seoul National University, where she studied the non-translational functions of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases that affects cellular homeostasis and human disease. She joined the Kennedy lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2018. Her work in the Kennedy lab focuses on understanding the mechanism by which ApoE alleles influence the relationship between aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
Chen-Yu Liao, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Chen-Yu is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Kennedy lab. He got his PhD in physiology from the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Chen-Yu has studied the genetic variation in the murine lifespan response to dietary restriction. Chen-Yu continues his training in the field of aging research at the Buck Institute. His main focus is on the molecular mechanisms underlying the aging process in mice.
Kaitlyn Vitangcol Research Associate I
Kaitlyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology from Dominican University of California in 2018. There, she researched the genetic pathways responsible for the morphological diversity of the crustacean Asellus aquaticus. In the Kennedy lab, she uses mouse models to test the effects of different diets and low doses of ethanol on type II diabetes.
- Liao, C. Y., Anderson, S. S., Chicoine, N. H., Mayfield, J. R., Academia, E. C., Wilson, J. A., Pongkietisak, C., Thompson, M. A., Lagmay, E. P., Miller, D. M., Hsu, Y. M., McCormick, M. A., O’Leary, M. N., Kennedy, B. K. (2016 Dec 6). Rapamycin reverses metabolic deficits in lamin A/C-deficient mice. Cell Rep, 17(10), 2542–2552. PMID: 27926859.
- Tsai, S., Rodriguez, A. A., Dastidar, S. G., Del Greco, E., Carr, K. L., Sitzmann, J. M., Academia, E. C., Viray, C. M., Martinez, L. L., Kaplowitz, B. S., Ashe, T. D., La Spada, A., Kennedy, B. K. (2016 Aug 16). Increased 4E-BP1 expression protects against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance in male mice. Cell Rep, 16(7), 1903–1914. PMID: 27498874.
- McCormick, M. A., Kennedy, B. K., et al. (2015 Nov 3). A comprehensive analysis of replicative lifespan in 4,698 single-gene deletion strains uncovers novel mechanisms of aging. Cell Metab, 22(5), 895–906. PMID: 26456335.
- Schreiber, K. H., Ortiz, D., Academia, E. C., Anies, A. C., Liao, C. Y., Kennedy, B. K. (2015). Rapamycin-mediated mTORC2 inhibition is determined by the relative expression of FK506 binding proteins. Aging Cell, 14, 265–273. PMID: 25652038.
- He, C., Tsuchiyama, S. K., Nguyen, Q. T., Plyusnina, E. N., Terrill, S. R., Sahibzada, S., Patel, B., Faulkner, A. R., Shaposhnikov, M. V., Tian, R., Tsuchiya, M., Kaeberlein, M., Moskalev, A. A., Kennedy, B. K., Polymenis, M. (2014 Dec 18). Enhanced longevity by ibuprofen, conserved in multiple species, occurs in yeast through inhibition of tryptophan import. PLoS Genet, E1004860. PMID: 25521617.
- Kennedy, B. K., Berger, S. L., Brunet, A., Campisi, J., Cuervo, A. M., Epel, E. S., Franceschi, C., Lithgow, G. J., Morimoto, R. I., Pessin, J. E., Rando, T. A., Richardson, A., Schadt, E. E., Wyss-Coray, T., Sierra, F. (2014). Geroscience: Linking aging to chronic disease. Cell, 159, 709–713. PMID: 25417146.
- Ramos, F., Chen, S. C., Garelick, M. G., Dai, D. F., Liao, C. Y., Schreiber, K. H., MacKay, V. L., An, E. H., Strong, R., Ladiges, W. C., Kaeberlein, M., Kennedy, B. K. (2012). Rapamycin reverses elevated mTORC1 signaling in lamin A/C-deficient mice, rescues cardiac and skeletal muscle function and extends survival. Transl Med, 4, 144ra103. PMID: 22837538.
- Smith, E. D., Tsuchiya, M., Fox, L. A., Dang, N., Hu, D., Kerr, E. O., Johnston, E. D., Tchao, B. N., Pak, D. N., Welton, K. L., Promislow, D. E. L., Thomas, J. H., Kaeberlein, M., Kennedy, B. K. (2008). Quantitative evidence for conserved longevity pathways between divergent eukaryotic species. Genome Res, 18, 564–570.
- Steffen, K. K., MacKay, V. L., Kerr, E. O., Tsuchiya, M., Hu, D., Fox, L. A., Dang, N., Johnston, E. D., Oakes, J. A., Tchao, B. N., Pak, D. N., Fields, S., Kennedy, B. K., Kaeberlein, M. (2008 Apr 18). Yeast lifespan extension by depletion of 60S ribosomal subunits is mediated by Gcn4. Cell, 133(2), 292–302.
- Kaeberlein, M., Powers, R. W. III, Steffen, K. K., Westman, E. A., Hu, D., Dang, N., Kerr, E. O., Kirkland, K. T., Fields, S., Kennedy, B. K. (2005 Nov 18). Regulation of yeast replicative life span by TOR and Sch9 in response to nutrients. Science, 310(5751), 1193–1196.
- Kennedy, B. K., Austriaco, N. R. Jr, Zhang, J., Guarente, L. (1995 Feb 10). Mutation in the silencing gene SIR4 can delay aging in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Cell, 80(3), 485–496.