by Buck Institute

Buck Institute Awarded $25 Million to Establish New Scientific Discipline of Geroscience

The Buck Institute for Age Research is launching a new scientific discipline called Geroscience, which will be focused on the interface of normal aging and age-related disease. A five-year $25 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap for Medical Research will establish an Interdisciplinary Research Consortium in Geroscience at the Institute. The Buck received one of nine Roadmap awards granted in the U.S. This is the largest grant received by the Institute in its eight year history.

The interdisciplinary grants address health challenges that have been resistant to traditional research approaches. At the Buck Institute the award will allow scientists to employ novel and unconventional approaches to studying various diseases in the context of aging, which is the single largest risk factor for disease in developed countries. For example, researchers who study aging using worm models will be designing experiments with neuroscientists. Scientists studying nutrition and aging in fruit flies will be working on projects with a cancer specialist. Experts in human embryonic stem cells will be designing experiments with cancer and age researchers to understand how stem cells age and determine how tumor suppressor genes function as the cells develop. The award also establishes the nation’s first post-doctoral training program in Geroscience.

“This award validates the unique research model that Buck Institute science was built on,” said Dale Bredesen, MD, CEO of the Buck Institute. “Scientists at the Institute studying aging, age-related disease, and developing new technology for such studies are collaborating synergistically,” said Bredesen. “With this support from the NIH, our research will initiate a new ‘interdiscipline’ called ‘Geroscience’, which promises new understanding of the relationship between aging and disease.”

“The approach being taken in this research is well-suited to studying the complexities of aging,” said Richard Hodes, MD, Director of the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. “Spurred by today’s Roadmap award, such interdisciplinary research can play an important role in fostering new discoveries about basic biology and age-related disease.”

The establishment of Geroscience can be compared to the formation of Neuroscience nearly four decades ago, which combined knowledge from brain anatomy, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, behavioral sciences and other areas to create a new interdisciplinary field. Geroscience at the Buck Institute initially will include molecular genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, chemical biology, cancer biology, Alzheimer’s disease research, endocrinology, invertebrate aging, nutrition, bioenergetics, Parkinson’s disease research, molecular epidemiology, Huntington’s disease research, ischemia (stroke), proteomics, human embryonic stem cells, genomic stability and statistics, among others. Over the coming years the Buck Institute hopes to attract researchers from fields as disparate as physics, anthropology, engineering and mathematics, many of whom may have no background in Geroscience and may not initially think of themselves as researchers in this new field.

“The Buck Institute was founded on the principle of creating interdisciplinary research,” said Buck Institute Geroscience Project Director Gordon Lithgow, PhD. “Our lack of departmental structures has minimized organizational barriers and has already resulted in surprising discoveries about aging and disease. We are a perfect partner for the NIH as they seek to transform the way research is conducted in this country,” he said.

“It is my hope that creating this new discipline of Geroscience will foster far-reaching changes in healthcare,” said Bredesen. “Our current approach to aging is largely reactive; we go to healthcare providers when the chronic diseases of aging become symptomatic, which is unfortunately when they are far advanced and usually already beyond repair.” Noting the need for pre-symptomatic diagnosis, coupled with disease prevention for age-related maladies, he said, “We have become accustomed to living in a society in which we do not worry about contracting polio, but in which we have no assurance that we will age without developing Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cancer or another age-associated disease.” Bredesen added, “We hope to change this state of affairs, and we are excited about the potential for Geroscience research to contribute to this fundamental change -- its potential literally to change the way we age.”

The Buck Institute is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to extending the healthspan, the healthy years of each individual’s life. The Buck Institute undertakes breakthrough research through the support of federal funds (46%), private philanthropy (36%) and proceeds from the Buck Trust (18%) to maintain its $32 M annual operating budget. 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. 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 age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, stroke, and arthritis. Collaborative research at the Institute is supported by genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics technology.

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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