Gordon Lithgow, Buck Institute professor and Chief Academic Officer, will receive the Denham Harman Award from the American Aging Association today, in recognition of lifetime achievement in the field of research on aging. The award will be made at the organization’s annual meeting, held this year in Burlingame, CA.
Created in 1978, the award was named in honor of Dr. Denham Harman, a pioneer in research on aging who is credited with establishing the free radical theory of aging in a paper he published in 1954. His hypothesis did not attract serious consideration for almost 30 years, but its core insights opened new avenues of research into the causes of many age-related diseases. Harman died in 2014 at the age of 98.
At the Buck, the Lithgow lab is focused on uncovering genes and identifying small molecules that prolong lifespan through enhancing the molecular stability that often goes out of balance during aging. The lab concentrates on identifying small drug-like molecules that re-engage and enhance homeostatic mechanisms in the microscopic nematode worm C. elegans, aiming to boost mechanisms that prevent protein misfolding and remove damaged proteins and other forms of molecular damage. Treatment with such molecules frequently results in lifespan extension and postpones disease pathology. Lithgow’s team collaborates with other Buck researchers to test the effectiveness of these compounds to prevent chronic disease in mouse models.
A native of Scotland, Dr. Lithgow received his PhD from the University of Glasgow and obtained further training at Ciba Geigy AG in Basel, Switzerland, and the University of Colorado. He established his lab studying the biology of aging at the University of Manchester, England, before moving it to the Buck Institute in 2000.
Dr. Lithgow has been recognized for his research with many honors, including a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation, and the Tenovus Award for Biomedical Research. He has served on many national advisory panels in both the United Kingdom and the United States, including the National Institute on Aging’s Board of Scientific Councilors, and has served as the chair of biological sciences at the Gerontology Society of America.