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In The News

Buck Institute Partners With USC on ‘Aging’ Ph.D

The Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology announced a joint Ph.D program in the “biology of aging” in an effort to tackle the rising prevalence of age-related diseases.

In a joint announcement, officials involved described the new program as “the first in the nation,” saying the interdisciplinary doctoral program will draw on the two institutions’ “long-established leadership and expertise in understanding the connection between aging and chronic disease” through biomedical research.

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

“By attacking aging, a common cause of diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to Type 2 diabetes to macular degeneration, we strive to extend health span, the functional and disease-free period of life,” Brian Kennedy, Ph.D, president and CEO of the Buck Institute, said in a statement. “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.”

Faculty from both organizations will teach courses and mentor students, with the first class starting in Fall 2014. Students will have the option of spending time at both the USC campus in Los Angeles and at the Buck Institute in Novato.

“This unique and transformative Ph.D. program combines the resources of two major research institutes and will give our graduates unprecedented expertise in the biology of aging,” said Pinchas Cohen, M.D., 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.”

Investing in research to delay aging would have better returns for population health and the economy than advances in treating individual diseases, such as cancer or heart disease, according to a study appearing in the October 2013 issue of Health Affairs led by Dana Goldman, chair of  the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. Researchers also found that even modest success in efforts to slow aging would increase the number of non-disabled seniors by as much as 5 percent every year from 2030 to 2060.

The new Ph.D. program  will “combine USC and the Buck Institute’s strengths”  across  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.

The announcement was made at the opening of annual meeting of the Geronotological Society of America in New Orleans.

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