by Buck Institute

Geriatrician-scientist John Newman, MD, PhD, joins the Buck faculty

Geriatrician and researcher in the field of aging poised to bridge gap between lab and clinical practice.

NOVATO, Calif. — John Newman belongs to a rare breed. He is among a handful of geriatrician-scientists in this country who both care for older patients and do biomedical research that could lead to treatments for the complex conditions that afflict them. His appointment as an assistant professor at the Buck Institute will help drive the Institute’s overall efforts to move discoveries from the lab bench to the bedside.

"John is an accomplished researcher, and his work in the lab, with patients, and with national leaders who are working to accelerate clinical trials that target aging processes makes him the perfect addition to our faculty,” said Buck Institute President and CEO Eric Verdin, MD. “We are privileged and excited to have him on board.”

Newman is a staff geriatrician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and he will retain an appointment as an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His biomedical research focuses on ketone bodies, which are compounds that are produced during fat metabolism and which both provide energy to cells and can reprogram cellular functions. He is the author of more than 20 scientific papers. Most recently, he authored a study published in Cell Metabolism that showed a ketogenic diet improves memory in aging mice. “Ketone bodies are an example of the metabolic signals that are becoming a new frontier of potential therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “I’m excited to discover what they’re doing in the brain and how they might make us more resilient to cognitive decline as we age.”

Newman has been a visiting scientist at the Buck Institute since 2017. “The opportunity to collaborate with so many incredible scientists who are all focused on aging was too good to pass up,” he said. “The Buck is truly unique. I love its vibrant, collaborative culture, and I fully support its goal to extend the healthy years of life.”

Newman added that he is pleased and excited to continue his affiliation with fellow geriatricians at UCSF. “Geroscience is important for many fields of medicine, but geriatrics is just a natural fit. I want to bring geriatrics and geroscience closer together. We need to better understand the biology behind complex geriatric syndromes like frailty and delirium that affect so many older adults. Together, we can quickly test hypotheses though existing clinical and epidemiological studies, create innovative new therapies for our clinical toolbox, and help older adults stay healthy and independent.”

Newman has received numerous awards and funding from organizations, including the Glenn Medical Foundation, the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, and the American Geriatrics Society. He is a National Institute on Aging/AFAR Beeson Scholar, a national program that cultivates leaders in research on aging. His involvement in efforts to develop intellectual frameworks, collaborations, and physical infrastructure needed to move basic discoveries into clinical trials “has been a highlight of my career so far,” he said.

“We expect great things from John and are fully supportive of his goals,” said Verdin. “He will help move the whole field forward and will be a key player as the Buck becomes an integrated hub that includes the best basic research, translational research on human aging, a vibrant collection of start-ups, and a clinical center focused on healthy aging.”

A graduate of Yale University, Newman received his MD/PhD in biochemistry from the University of Washington and completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in geriatric medicine at UCSF. Newman began working at the VA Medical Center in 2015, where he specializes in caring for hospitalized older adults at risk for delirium and loss of independence.

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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