by Buck Institute

The Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the University of Southern California Launch the Nation’s First PhD Program in the Biology of Aging

November 20, 2013/Novato CA and Los Angeles, CA:  To tackle the rising prevalence of age-related diseases and the challenges and opportunities presented by a growing elderly population, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the USC Davis School of Gerontology today announced a joint PhD program in the Biology of Aging, the first in the nation.

The interdisciplinary doctoral program will draw on the two institution’s long-established leadership and expertise in understanding the connection between aging and chronic disease through biomedical research. The Buck Institute, located in Marin County, is the U.S.’s first and the world’s foremost independent research institute focused on aging and chronic diseases. The USC Davis School of Gerontology is the oldest and largest school of gerontology in the world, dedicated to the study of aging and health across the lifespan since 1975.

Faculty from both organizations will teach courses and mentor students, with the first class beginning in Fall 2014 and students having the option of spending time at the USC campus in Los Angeles and at the Buck Institute in Northern California. The announcement was made at the opening of the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in New Orleans.

“Establishing this PhD program marks a milestone in the development of the Buck, both in terms of our mission and our commitment to lead the field of aging research,” said Buck President and CEO, Brian Kennedy. “The next generation of scientists dedicated to extending human healthspan are waiting in the wings – this program will allow them to jump into the field fully prepared to participate and make their own breakthroughs.”

“This unique and transformative PhD program combines the resources of two major research institutes and will give our graduates unprecedented expertise in the biology of aging,” said Pinchas Cohen, MD, Dean of the USC Davis School of Gerontology. “There is no longer any doubt that aging is the largest risk factor for chronic disease. We need a philosophical change in the way scientists approach disease and we believe this program will help drive that change.”

“By attacking aging, a common cause of diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to type 2 diabetes to macular degeneration, we strive to extend healthspan, the functional and disease-free period of life,” said Brian Kennedy, PhD, President and CEO of the Buck Institute. “This first-of-its-kind graduate program was created to offer a new perspective on medical research, priming students for the near future where aging and its implications are the number one driver of morbidity and mortality worldwide.”

The program reflects recent research supporting a shift from treating age-related diseases individually to tackling the underlying cause of these diseases: aging itself.

In a study appearing in the October 2013 issue of Health Affairs, researchers led by Dana Goldman, Schaeffer Director’s Chair at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, showed that an investment in research to delay aging would have better returns for population health and the economy than advances in individual diseases such as cancer or heart disease. The researchers found that even modest success in efforts to slow aging would increase the number of non-disabled seniors by five percent every year from 2030 to 2060.

The new PhD program in the Biology of Aging will combine USC and the Buck Institute’s strengths in a wide range of areas related to the biology of aging, including molecular biology, neuroscience, protein chemistry, cell biology, endocrinology, metabolomics, stem cell technology and regenerative medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, evolutionary biology, and biodemography.

About USC Davis School of Gerontology:

Founded in 1975, the USC Davis School of Gerontology is the oldest and largest school of its type in the world. The school offers the most comprehensive selection of gerontology degree programs found anywhere, a variety of outstanding research opportunities and a challenging yet supportive academic environment. As a school rooted in a world-class research university located in Los Angeles, the USC Davis School of Gerontology—and its research and services arm, the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center—are home to today’s leaders in the field, as well as to tomorrow’s. The program studies the human lifespan by exploring the biology, psychology, sociology, policy, economics, medical and business dimensions of adult life. The curriculum is aimed at equipping future professionals in the field of aging with the specific skills and knowledge necessary to respond effectively to the needs of an aging population.

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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