Buck Institute for Research on Aging Creates a New Predictive Model That Helps Identify Those at Risk for Severe COVID-19

Researchers at the Buck Institute analyzed data from the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app used by 3 million people in the United Kingdom, adding the use of immunosuppressant medication, use of a mobility aid, shortness of breath, fever, and fatigue to the list of symptoms and comorbidities that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.  Results are published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“Even though there are established risk factors for severe COVID-19 there are no good predictors that enable healthcare providers, or even those who have tested positive, to assess who should seek advanced medical care,” says Buck Institute Associate Professor David Furman, PhD, the senior scientist who led the study. “We are glad to add to the efforts underway around the world to determine how to best care for those infected by the coronavirus.”

Furman said that out of the three million people who used the app about 11,000 people tested positive for the virus and about 500 ended up in the hospital. The symptom-tracking app collects data from multiple angles, asking people to describe how they feel, symptoms they are experiencing, and medications they are using along with demographics and lifestyle factors such as nutrition and diet.

Results did not identify chronological age as a risk factor for severe COVID-19; Furman acknowledged that the fact that elderly people are less likely to use a smartphone app was a limitation of the study. “But our study,” Furman says, “does emphasize that any population that expresses the features identified in our model could be susceptible to a more severe form of COVID-19.”

Adding that many of the factors identified in the study are related to aging, Furman says, “understanding vulnerable younger populations that are biologically older than their chronological age and exhibit features that are generally associated with the older population could help clinicians identify susceptible young populations.”

Furman says findings that identify the use of immunosuppressant medications as a major predictor of more serious disease warrant more investigation. “Are these patients doing worse because of an underlying auto-immune/auto-inflammatory disease or because the medications are suppressing their inflammatory response – we don’t know,” he says.  “Labs around the world are studying the overactive immune response that leads to the cytokine storm which is associated with severe COVID-19.  Our findings highlight the need to understand the biology of what is at play in these cases.”

Furman and colleagues are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to pursue other COVID-related research. Efforts are underway to predict patients likely to become COVID “long haulers” – those who experience ongoing debilitating symptoms long after they recover from acute disease.  Researchers are also correlating earlier data that identified aging phenotypes within individual proteomes (the entire complement of proteins expressed within our cells and tissues) with the proteomes of those infected with the coronavirus. Furman says preliminary data suggests that there is a subgroup of COVID-19 patients who are aging faster in regards to their proteome. He says the hope is to identify interventions that would restore their protein expression to a younger state.


Becoming Independent is Creating the Future

Program Headquarters –

We are now launching a campaign to transform 1455 Corporate Center Parkway into BI’s Program Headquarters – a think tank for programs where innovative offerings are developed and experienced. After receiving national recognition and awards for our Passport to Independence, Discovery and Virtual Day Programs, we are excited to lean into this next innovative chapter. While our headquarters will be in Santa Rosa, our friends throughout the region will be offered transportation and encouraged to avail themselves of everything we have to offer both at our headquarters and in their local communities.

The Opportunities –

The space will be reminiscent of a post-secondary environment, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and up-to-date air filtration systems to ensure health and safety. It will be modern, airy and welcoming, and equipped with appropriate tools to support the individuals we serve in reaching their personal goals. It will include a 10,000 sq. ft. flexible program space that will offer opportunities for education, social connection, and vocational training that results in community based employment. Friends will be reunited in a vibrant setting that includes access to a large, beautiful outdoor garden.

On the heels of a year like no other, we are excited to be emerging with a clear vision of how best to build the future of effective and resilient services for our friends, neighbors and family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities. If there’s one thing that BI has proven over the past 54 years, it’s that just about anything is possible when you have a vision, the passion to move it forward, and a community of strong allies and generous supporters. We welcome you to join us on this journey!

Redwood Credit Union’s Brett Martinez Joins CUNA Mutual Group’s Board of Directors

CUNA Mutual Group appointed two new members to its board of directors effective April 1. Joining the board are Brett Martinez, president and CEO, Redwood Credit Union, Santa Rosa, California, and John Larsen, chair, president and CEO, Alliant Energy Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin.

“John and Brett bring significant experience in financial and consumer services and the skill sets required to help us advance our long-term strategy,” said Robert N. Trunzo, president and CEO, CUNA Mutual Group. “Their enduring commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in their communities and businesses makes them the ideal additions to our board. And, each will further strengthen our customer-centric approach to enable more people in more ways to make financial decisions that work for them.”

Martinez has been with Redwood Credit Union since 2002. With more than $6 billion in assets, RCU serves more than 378,000 members. Martinez oversees all aspects of the credit union, including its credit union service organization, which operates an auto dealership and an insurance agency.

Active in the community, he serves on a variety of nonprofit, community, and industry boards. Martinez has chaired the boards of directors of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Credit Union National Association, and California Credit Union League. He has served on the Western CUNA Management School Board of Trustees and the CU Direct Board. He is currently on the board of the North Bay Leadership Council and is highly involved in fundraising for Credit Unions for Kids.

Martinez holds a master’s degree in business administration from California State University, San Bernardino and is also a graduate of Western CUNA Management School class of 1994.

“CUNA Mutual Group has long been a partner in providing vital financial protection services to credit unions and our members,” Martinez said. “I’m honored and excited to join their board of directors and contribute to their commitment to helping people improve their financial futures.”

Larsen leads Alliant Energy Corporation, which serves nearly 1.5 million customers in Iowa and Wisconsin providing electricity and natural gas service. He has extensive knowledge of the utility business, and as an active executive has robust experience in strategic leadership, financial acumen, operations and understanding customer perspectives.

Larsen joined Alliant Energy in 1988 as an electrical engineer and over the last 30 years has advanced through various executive leadership roles before becoming president in 2018, and then chair of the board and CEO on July 1, 2019.

Active in the industry and community, Larsen serves on the boards of American Transmission Company and the Edison Electric Institute and serves as a member of the Business Roundtable. Larsen also serves as a board member of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota where he attained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

“I am honored to join CUNA Mutual Group’s Board of Directors, and I am inspired by how this organization and their employees live their values and consistently look for a better way to serve customers,” Larsen said.

Continuing members of the CUNA Mutual Group board of directors include: Michael G. Valentine (chair), president/CEO, BCU-Baxter Credit Union; Janet V. Whitehouse (vice chair), formerly SVP and general manager, Sun Life Financial; Robert J. Marzec, retired audit partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Caren C. Gabriel, president/CEO, Ascend Federal Credit Union; Thomas C. Godlasky, retired CEO, Aviva North America; Angela Owens, vice president/controller, American Airlines; Jacqueline S. Shoback, co-founder and managing director, OWI Ventures;Kevin D. Johnson, president/CEO Suncoast Credit Union; Tyrone E. Muse, president/CEO, Visions Federal Credit Union; and Robert N. Trunzo, president/CEO, CUNA Mutual Group.

About CUNA Mutual Group:
Built on the principle of “people helping people,” CUNA Mutual Group is a financially strong insurance, investment and financial services company that believes a brighter financial future should be accessible to everyone. Through our company culture, community engagement, and products and solutions, we are working to create a more equitable financial system that helps to improve the lives of those we serve and our society. For more information, visit www.cunamutual.com.

Kaiser Permanente Donates $500K To Rebuild Fire-Ravaged Park

As part of the ongoing effort to rebuild wildfire-ravaged Foothill Regional Park in Windsor, the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation has received a $500,000 Kaiser Permanente grant.

This funding will allow Sonoma County Regional Parks to renovate the 211-acre park with a new “climate-adaptive” design to make it more resilient to future wildfires and offer greater protection to surrounding neighborhoods.

The grant will also support the addition of community amenities in the popular park, including the construction of outdoor classrooms and gathering areas, an artistic entryway created by local students, and trail enhancements constructed by youth crews mentored by parks staff.

In October 2019, Foothill Regional Park was the frontline in the fight to contain the Kincade Fire, the second wildfire in three years to threaten Sonoma County. Firefighters snaked miles of hoses through the park’s woodlands and bulldozed fire breaks in its open spaces. Their efforts kept the fire from burning through adjacent subdivisions and into the town. However, 95 percent of the park was burned or damaged, including 4 miles of trails, eight trail bridges and a 40-foot bridge that provides access to the park’s back country.

“It’s important for us to recognize that wildfires are occurring more frequently in Sonoma County and for us to take the initiative to make our parks and communities better prepared,” said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker. “Many parks haven’t been designed with fire in mind. Since we are all facing the same existential climate threat, we hope Foothill will become a model for the Western United States.”

Climate-adaptive design means adjusting construction materials and techniques to be more resilient to future climate changes. At Foothill, this includes replacing wooden infrastructure like retaining walls and footbridges with fire-proof materials like metal or stone, or replacing plastic culverts with metal ones.

It also means introducing new features that support firefighting, like buried water lines to enable fire crews to access water from the park’s three ponds and redesigning some trails with cleared borders to accommodate fire truck or bulldozer access without damaging sensitive ecological and historical resources.

“At Kaiser Permanente, we recognize good health requires more than high-quality health care. Where we live has a significant impact on our health and well-being, and we believe that good health is a fundamental right for all,” said Tarek Salaway, senior vice president and area manager, Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma. “That is why we focus on making real and lasting change for the people who live, learn, work, and play in the communities we serve. Not only does this project fit Kaiser Permanente’s preventive health strategy of active living but it is also part of our fire recovery efforts to rebuild the health and vitality of Sonoma County.”

Over 100,000 people visit Foothill Regional Park annually, a number on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supported by this grant, Sonoma County Regional Parks will employ local young adults in fire resilience projects, including trail construction and vegetation management, through its Career Pathways Youth Crew program. This program helps young people – most of whom have faced challenges in their lives – develop work-readiness skills under the mentorship of parks staff.

Local students, mentored by artists, will be tapped to create the centerpiece of the park’s redesigned entrance, celebrating the park’s revival and community’s healing. Additionally, two new outdoor “classrooms” will create gathering spaces for future school field trips or community meetings and become venues for increasing wildfire awareness and environmental education.

“We are deeply grateful to Kaiser Permanent for this generous grant,” said Melissa Kelley, executive director of the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation. “Rebuilding and strengthening the parks damaged by wildfire is a top priority for the Foundation, especially through funding programs that support at-risk community members, seniors and youth, and enhance the social networks that are so crucial to a community’s disaster resiliency.”

Grant funding from Kaiser Permanente will be matched with $50,000 in individual donations to the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation for fire recovery, a $15,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Coronado and facilitated by the Rotary Club of Windsor, and revenue from the Measure M parks sales tax approved by Sonoma County voters in 2018.

“Often we rely on the past to guide our decisions about the future. It can be difficult to justify additional investments to guard against disasters that may seem unlikely,” said Sonoma County Risk Manager Janell Crane. “But climate change is here and the effects are real. We can’t afford not to act. Taking the opportunity now to make infrastructure investments will payoff by improving the safety of the greater community and mitigating future damage to our valuable resources.”

Climate-adaptive work is currently underway at Foothill Regional Park and is expected to last through October 2022.


CannaCraft is Honored to Announce Their Recent First Place Award Wins in This Year’s Prestigious Emerald Cup Festival and Awards

Large-scale cannabis manufacturer CannaCraft is honored to announce their recent first place award wins in this year’s prestigious Emerald Cup Festival and Awards.

Their Farmer & The Felon brand’s “Gorilla Snacks” won first place in the Sungrown Flower category, along with Humboldt Terp Council’s “Gelonade Live Resin” taking first place in the Hydrocarbon Liquid category and HiFi Hops’ “Unplugged” grabbing the top spot for Edibles – Beverages.

Other notable placements included CannaCraft brand Care By Design taking third place in both the CBD Cartridges and CBD Edibles categories, with their “18:1 Vape Cartridge” and “4:1 Gummies” (Lemon), respectively. HTC also placed fifth in the Solvent-Less Rosin category with their “Rainbow Belts Solventless Live Rosin”, and Satori brand’s “Chai Spiced White Chocolate” netted a fourth place win in the Edibles – Sweets category.

The Emerald Cup Festival and Awards has evolved into an online destination now reaching 150M viewers, and was broadcasted live on Social Club TV this year. The event will be available on April 20, 2021 for on-demand viewing on the world’s only cannabis TV network – making 2021’s celebration the most attended in the event’s 17 year history.


Kaiser Permanente Countering the Surge in Asian American Discrimination

Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated, nonprofit health care organization, has committed $5.4 million to combat the surge in violence against people of Asian descent and to support the rights, health, and wellness of the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Racial prejudice toward these groups predates the COVID-19 pandemic but has recently increased as pejorative connections between COVID-19 and people of Asian heritage have fueled xenophobic, anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes.

Approved by its board of directors on March 10, Kaiser Permanente’s commitment is intended to help prevent further racist acts, provide interventions when they occur, and promote healing in communities that have been discriminated against. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders represent 34% of Kaiser Permanente employees, and 23% of its 12.4-million-person membership.

“Kaiser Permanente recognizes the pain that many of our employees, members, and communities are experiencing due to the unacceptable increase in assaults, harassment, and hate crimes directed at people of Asian descent — including the tragic March 16 attacks in Atlanta,” said Greg A. Adams, Kaiser Permanente chair and chief executive officer. “As a health care organization, we understand that it is fundamentally impossible to achieve emotional or physical well-being when subjected to violence, racism, and other forms of discrimination, and so stand firmly against all forms of social injustice.”

The grant recipients include 2 organizations that advocate nationally for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities: Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC and Stop AAPI Hate. According to Stop AAPI Hate, the group received reports of 3,292 incidents in 2020 involving verbal harassment, avoidance/shunning, physical assault, vandalism, and other forms of discrimination. Nearly 45% of those incidents took place in California.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC, a national nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that advocates for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and underserved allied communities, will assist in redistributing grant funds to community-based organizations where Kaiser Permanente operates and will work with 4 other independent organizations in the Advancing Justice affiliation.

“Advancing Justice — AAJC is honored to be in partnership with Kaiser Permanente,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC. “Too often Asian American communities are overlooked because of the harmful ‘model minority’ myth or targeted because of the perpetual foreigner stereotypes that exist. This significant funding provides a robust opportunity to address anti-Asian hate through collaboration between local community organizations and a national response.”

Grant funding will be used to:

  • Advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders through education, advocacy, and community building
  • Address misinformation and xenophobia, and increase reporting of hate targeting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities
  • Strengthen infrastructure within regional community-based organizations for preventing racist attacks, intervening when they occur, and promoting healing

These grants are part of Kaiser Permanente’s broad, established commitment to improve health equity and address racism in the communities it serves. Partnering with organizations that have a trusted presence within communities is a long-standing priority for the organization.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.4 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.


Kaiser Permanente Announces Alena Wall Named Interim Public Affairs Director

Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma bids farewell to Public Affairs Director Judy James as she moves on to greener pastures and celebrates her retirement. We are excited to announce that our Regional Community Health Manager, Alena Wall, has been appointed to the interim Public Affairs Director role, effective April 12, 2021. Please join us in welcoming Alena as our new Public Affairs Director at Kaiser Permanente in the Marin-Sonoma area.

Sonoma County Winegrowers’ Karissa Kruse Selected as Congressman Mike Thompson’s 2020 Woman of the Year

Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) announced Karissa Kruse and Letitia Hanke as the 2020 and 2021 Women of the Year in Sonoma County. Each year, Thompson honors women from the Fifth Congressional District who make exceptional contributions to our community. This year, Thompson is honoring both his 2020 and 2021 women of the year, as last year’s celebrations were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement from Thompson is below.

“Karissa Kruse as helped to put our Sonoma wine community on the international stage. As President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, she set and met ambitious sustainability goals and landed the county the distinction of Wine Region of 2019 by Wine Enthusiast. She’s also worked to ensure the community gives back, relaunching the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation that has provided more than a $1 million in support to local farmworkers. I’m honored to call her a friend and recognize her as Sonoma County’s 2020 Woman of the Year.”

“Letitia Hanke has broken through barriers and supported her community at every step of her career. She supported herself through college at Sonoma State University, she then rose through the ranks at her construction company and became enough of a leader to purchase the business herself, one of the few Black women in the roofing industry. She’s then turned around and started the LIME Foundation to help underrepresented youth follow their dreams. I’m honored to name her Sonoma County’s 2021 Woman of the Year.”

The Woman of the Year Recognition Ceremony(link is external) was started in honor of Women’s History Month to recognize the service of women in our community.

A complete list of 2020 winners includes:

  • Annette Taylor, Solano County
  • Beth Bartke, Contra Costa County
  • Crystal Martin, Lake County
  • Hope Lugo, Napa County
  • Karissa Kruse, Sonoma County

A complete list of 2021 winners includes:

  • Carol Huchinson, Lake County
  • Elizabeth Ann Hoffman, Contra Costa County
  • Eloise Escano Scott, Solano County
  • Letitia Hanke, Sonoma County
  • Lydia Mondavi, Napa County


Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. He is a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means where he chairs the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Rep. Thompson is Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is also Co-Chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus and a member of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

The Buck Institute is excited to offer Lifelong Learning courses on the Biology of Aging

The Buck Institute is excited to offer our  Lifelong Learning course on the Biology of Aging. This course is intended for a non-scientific audience to get the inside scoop on the exciting science going on at the Buck and in labs across the world. We will meet weekly online using Zoom for lectures and discussions with experts from across the institute. The zoom links will be sent to you via email once you are registered and before each session.

Session 1: Thursday, April 15
Past, Present, and Future of Aging Research
Instructed by Gordon Lithgow, PhD; Buck Faculty

Session 2: Monday, April 19

Basic Biology Refresher
Instructed by Bijoya Sen, PhD

Session 3: Wednesday, April 21

Biologic Basis of Aging
Instructed by Bijoya Sen, PhD and Mark Watson, PhD

Session 4: Monday, April 26

Age-Related Diseases
Instructed by Mark Watson, PhD

Session 5: Wednesday, April 28

Moving Aging Research Toward Clinical Applications
Instructed by John Newman, MD, PhD; Buck Faculty

Session 6: Monday, May 3

Science and Aging in the Media
Instructed by Kris Rebillot, Director of Communications


Nelson’s iWorkGlobal Acquired by Velocity Global

Velocity Global, the leading provider of global expansion solutions, today announced its acquisition of iWorkGlobal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gary D. Nelson and Associates, and a $100 million growth investment from private equity firm FFL Partners. The combined company, under the Velocity Global name, creates the largest U.S. domestic and global Employer of Record (EoR) and accelerates the future of remote work for companies around the world.

The investment from FFL Partners, a firm focused on growth investments in middle market companies, will also be deployed by Velocity Global to support additional strategic acquisitions, technology development, and to further expand the company’s global footprint.

“This strategic acquisition combines scale and expertise in a single platform for companies to employ top talent in another state or another country, quickly and compliantly,” said Ben Wright, Velocity Global founder and CEO. “We welcome the iWorkGlobal team, its clients, supported employees, and partners to the Velocity Global family at an inflection point for companies as we exit a pandemic that fundamentally removed the worker from the workplace.”

“At iWorkGlobal, we viewed ourselves as a strategic partner to our clients and this outlook aligns with the ‘People First’ brand of Velocity Global,” said Jeff Phelps, iWorkGlobal co-founder and CEO. “Combining our strengths allows us to deliver complementary expertise, capabilities, and new geographies to clients and their supported employees in the U.S. and around the globe.”

“As workforces have become more distributed, iWorkGlobal positioned itself as a leader in talent engagement solutions,” said Craig Nelson, Board Chairman of Gary D. Nelson and Associates. “It’s a testament to Jeff’s leadership and the hard work and dedication of the iWorkGlobal team that Velocity Global proactively sought out this combination of market leaders.”