Winter 2008 e-Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 1


  The Science of Healthier Aging
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AFAR to Launch Florida Affiliate
2. Events
    - October 2008 – AFAR to Host Conference on Biology of Cancer
    - AFAR 2007 Biomarkers of Aging Scientific Conference and Awards Dinner

3. Spotlight on: The Ellison Medical Foundation
4. Grants Update
    - Grants Program Overview
    - Meeting Dates
    - AFAR Grantees in the News

5. Other News and Events

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AFAR to Launch Florida Affiliate

 

This spring, AFAR will officially launch its Florida Affiliate which will provide AFAR Research Grants to Florida-based scientists. AFAR's affiliate network allows for a greater distribution of AFAR Research Grants to local scientists, thus expanding our efforts to support research on aging regionally.

Comprised of a regional director, with a board of directors, each affiliate develops partnerships with area medical schools, like-minded community groups, foundations and corporations to raise money for local AFAR Research Grants. AFAR headquarters matches up to two $30,000 grants and also provides fundraising and public relations support. All local grant applications are reviewed through AFAR's renowned national review process.

Area institutions involved in the planning of this affiliate include the Florida State University, Center on Aging at the University of Miami, University of Florida, University of South Florida, Nova Southeastern University, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and Miami Jewish Home for the Aged.

AFAR's affiliate network has awarded approximately $720,000 to 12 grantees in the Southeast, upstate New York and Ohio.

For more information about AFAR's affiliates program or to get involved in the Florida Affiliate, please contact Nancy O'Leary, AFAR's director of development, at 212-703-9977 or Nancy@afar.org.

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Events

AFAR to Host Scientific Conference on the Biology of Cancer

This October, AFAR will host its annual scientific conference on the biology of cancer (dates being finalized and will be announced shortly). The conference will explore fundamental aspects of aging and cancer processes and their interactions, from the basic research and translational perspectives. The program will be held in conjunction with AFAR's annual awards dinner. For more information, please contact Stacey Harris, AFAR's communications director at 212-703-9977 or Stacey@afar.org.

 

AFAR Holds Conference on Biomarkers of Aging and Diseases of Aging

Scientists, industry leaders assessed current and futures status of biomarkers as identifiers of rates of biological aging, predictors of longevity, and indicators of susceptibility to age-related diseases

On October 2, 2007, more than 200 scientists and industry leaders attended Seeking Biomarkers of Aging and Diseases of Aging, a scientific conference sponsored by the American Federation for Aging Research.

The interactive conference featured presentations highlighting the resources available for aging biomarker research and the kind of biomarkers needed to provide improvements to the human condition by alleviating disease and extending healthy lifespan. A forum with industry discussed public-private partnerships for the development of more useful biomarkers and effective interventions that could ultimately identify, treat and track age-related diseases and disorders.

Read about the proceedings of the conference.

Richard Hodes, MD, director of the National Institute on Aging, presented the keynote address, "The Outlook for Biological Research on Aging." Other speakers included: Stephen L. Helfand, MD, Brown University; Donald Ingram, PhD, Pennington Biomedical Research Center/Louisiana State University; Gerald McClearn, PhD, Penn State University; Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, University of Michigan; Richard Sprott, PhD, The Ellison Medical Foundation; and Richard Weindruch, PhD, University of Wisconsin.

A full program listing can be found at http://www.afar.org/biomarkersconference.html.

All speaker presentations can be found as read-only files on our website. The files are very large, so please make sure to save to your computer before viewing.

The conference was made possible through educational grants from Anonymous, Applied Biosystems, AstraZeneca, The Ellison Medical Foundation, GE Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, Merck, Myriad, Nestle, Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, and the 2007 Dorothy Dillon Eweson Lecture Series.

The meeting was also supported by 1R13AG31693-01 from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.

The scientific conference was held in conjunction with AFAR's annual awards dinner, which honored Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and associate director of the Geriatrics Center at the University of Michigan and AFAR board member; Diane A. Nixon, AFAR board member; Allen D. Roses, MD, senior vice president, Pharmacogenetics, GlaxoSmithKline; John “Launny” Steffens, former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch, and current managing director of Spring Mountain Capital; and T. Franklin Williams, MD, professor of medicine emeritus & VA Distinguished Physician, University of Rochester, former director, The National Institute on Aging (1983-1991) and AFAR board member (emeritus).

Both events raised more than $300,000 with the proceeds going to support the AFAR Research Grant program.

2007 Dinner Honorees

 

 

2007 Dinner Honorees: John “Launny” Steffens; Diane A. Nixon; Allen D. Roses, MD; Terrie Fox Wetle, PhD, AFAR President; Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD; Diana Jacobs Kalman, AFAR Chair; and George M. Martin, MD, AFAR Scientific Director.

 

 

 

Dr. Luigi Ferrucci speaks at the biomarkers conference

 

 

Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging, speaking about biomarkers' role in his Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight On: The Ellison Medical Foundation

AFAR's ability to support scientists can only happen through partnerships with foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as the National Institute on Aging. We sit down with Richard Sprott, PhD, executive director of The Ellison Medical Foundation (EMF) who talks about the Foundation's long association with AFAR and the importance of sustained support for aging research.

Why support AFAR and aging research?

The world's population, in developed and developing countries, is aging rapidly. As improved nutrition, public health measures and the widespread use of antibiotics have produced dramatic increases in life expectancy, the concomitant growth in the numbers of older persons, in almost all societies, brings new problems and challenges. An older population presents the challenges of failing organs, increased frailty, loss of cognitive ability, and escalating health care costs.

How and why we age are the great mysteries of aging science (gerontology). Aging research offers the promise of diminishing the deleterious effects of aging. Understanding basic processes is the best hope of finding ways to prevent, cure, or put into remission, age related diseases and disabilities. The resultant increase in health in the later years of life can be expected to diminish health care costs for aging societies.

Opportunities for scientists to exercise their imaginations and explore new directions are remarkably hard to find within today's research framework. Science itself is usually a painstakingly slow, deliberate, and expensive process. Research progress is hard to direct and even harder to predict. Progress is usually made by incremental advances in knowledge that build on current knowledge. The U.S. scientific infrastructure is generally geared to supporting the slow, steady march of progress. Investigators frequently have difficulty obtaining financial support through traditional sources to follow up novel ideas or observations that challenge current dogma. Yet these are the very creative opportunities that may foster a “quantum leap” or “paradigm shift” in scientific understanding, eventually contributing to advances in human health.

The Ellison Medical Foundation's goal is to respond to that need, providing scientists with the resources, freedom, and flexibility to pursue high-risk research that could have a scientific impact worldwide. We began our association with AFAR in 2002 when we wanted to develop innovative programs for post-doctoral fellows who were approaching the career stage where they could begin to become independent. We called them Senior Post-docs. This is a very critical stage in a scientists life and the stage where the freedom to develop their own scientific endeavors can make a career choice long lasting. AFAR already had in place a set of policies and a large and extremely effective review process for young investigators in aging. It made great sense for us to partner with AFAR rather than develop a separate review capacity. Since I also felt that such a program would be advantageous to AFAR, collaboration was a no-brainer.

What do you see as the priorities for scientific research in the field of aging?

Basic research is often the orphan in the federal research funding priority array. No congressperson thinks he/she or his constituents dies of basic biology. They all think they die of disease. In fact we all die of basic biology which underlies the diseases. AFAR, EMF and the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research are the only philanthropic organizations that are providing an alternative to federal funding for basic aging research. Together we provide almost one-third as much funding for such research as does the National Institute on Aging. The application of cutting edge, creative new research has enormous potential to improve lives just as the numbers of aging persons increases dramatically. Personally, I think our major priority has to be improving the quality of life in the latter stages rather than extending life to great ages.

Why do you think research on aging is important?

As our societies age, age dependent diseases impose increasingly important constraints on individual function and on our society's freedom to allocate resources. Only research offers real possibilities of reducing the personal and societal burdens of infirmity and disease. For example, understanding the complex interdependence between aging and cancer could lead to far more effective therapies, which in turn could dramatically reduce the cost of treatment of cancer, the lost productivity from illness and death, and the personal tragedy of death by cancer. Multiply this scenario by all the diseases of aging and the impact can be staggering.

What has come out of your collaboration with AFAR?

Our partnership with AFAR benefits young scientists through the post-doctoral programs and more senior scientists through the Julie Martin Mid-Career Award in Aging Research. While the programs were established in order to promote creativity, they have become an important resource in a time of shrinking resources. Our partnership with AFAR is an important part of our overall strategy to help sustain as many developing investigators of aging as can survive the current funding shortage. Partnership with AFAR helps both organizations maximize the impact of funding by maximizing the quality of the review process using AFAR reviewers and minimizing the administrative burdens by combining our programs into a single, highly effective program. I think the result is to multiply the impact of individual programs and to set a very high standard for philanthropic intervention in the scientific funding landscape.

Read about AFAR and the Ellison Medical Foundation's most recent collaboration - http://www.afar.org/ellison08release.html.


Dr. Sprott is the first executive director of The Ellison Medical Foundation (www.ellisonfoundation.org), the largest private foundation source of funding for the biology of aging. In that capacity, he directs the Foundation's grant-making programs, including the distribution of nearly $38,000,000 per year in grant funds given for aging research. Dr. Sprott was formerly the director of the Biology of Aging programs at the National Institute on Aging.

 

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Grants Update

Overview

Since 1981, AFAR has provided approximately $100 million to close to 2,400 new investigators and students through its series of grant programs. Deadlines have passed for the 2008 grants program. 2009 grant programs and eligibility will be announced in the summer 2008.

You can read about the recipients of AFAR's 2007 awards program on our website.

To learn more about AFAR grants programs, visit the AFAR web site at http://afar.org/grants.html or contact the AFAR grants department at 212-703-9977. If you would like to be placed on a mailing list to receive periodic updates on AFAR grant programs, please sign up via this form.

 

Meeting Dates

The 2008 Beeson Annual Meeting will be held June 19-22, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa at the Santa Ana Pueblo Reservation in New Mexico.

The AFAR Grantee Conference has been scheduled for September 6-9, 2008 at Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort in Santa Barbara, California.

 

AFAR Grantees in the News

Many AFAR grantees are gaining attention for their research in high-profile media, helping AFAR better communicate to the public the importance of supporting such research. Some highlights:

The research of 2000 Pfizer/AFAR Research Grant recipient and University of California, Irvine researcher Frank LaFerla, PhD, about the restorative effects of stem cells to reduce memory problems, was covered in New Scientist and Scientific American.com in November 2007.

On October 31, 2007, Gordon Lithgow, PhD, of the Buck Institute and 2006 Glenn/AFAR Breakthroughs in Gerontology (BIG) Award recipient, Gawain McColl, PhD, formerly of the Buck Institute and now at the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, Australia and 2003 Glenn/AFAR Postdoctoral Fellow, and David Killilea, PhD, of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute and 2003 Glenn/AFAR Postdoctoral Fellow, were featured in Science Daily. The article discussed the researchers' work using lithium, a drug to treat mood affective disorders, to increase lifespan in nematode worms.

In an article in the Los Angeles Times on October 8, 2007, 2000 Pfizer/AFAR Research Grant recipient, James Lah, MD, PhD, of Emory University, discusses potential genetic markers for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.

In an October 7, 2007 article in The New York Times, 2000 Beeson Scholar, Jason Karlawish, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania, points out that a diagnosis for a mental disease does not mean the person is incapable of working, making decisions, or voting.

Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital and 1999 Beeson Scholar, was featured on CNN.com on September 24, 2007. The feature focused on treating patients with chronic pain that do not have an obvious cause of the pain, and do not respond to medicine.

Research published in the journal Cell by David Sinclair, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and 2000 AFAR Research Grant recipient, was featured on MSNBC.com on September 20, 2007. Dr. Sinclair's research shows that certain genes, SIRT3 and SIRT4, can help keep our cells healthy and youthful and suggest that one day a pill may replicate the beneficial effects of caloric restriction in extending healthy life.

Additional listings can be found on our website.

For more information or to inform us of about to be published studies and upcoming media interviews, please contact Stacey Harris at 212-703-9977 or stacey@afar.org.

 

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Other News and Events

  • AFAR, in concert with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, hosted Aging, Genome Maintenance, and Metabolism on December 6, 2007. The conference brought together internationally renowned leaders in aging research. This conference was supported by the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, The Pack Family Foundation and grants from the National Institutes of Health.

     

  • Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and associate director of the Geriatrics Center at the University of Michigan and AFAR board member gave the Irving S. Wright Award of Distinction Lecture -- Live Short and Prosper – Aging Secrets of the Snell Dwarf Mouse -- at the 60th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in San Francisco on November 17, 2007.

     

  • AFAR executive director Stephanie Lederman was an invited participant at the Keck Futures Initiative conference, The Future of Healthspan: Demography, Evolution, Medicine and Bioengineering, that took place November 14-16, 2007 in Irvine, California. The conference brought together scientists, engineers, medical researchers and representatives from private and public funding organizations, university and government leadership to stimulate conversations about funding, communicating and supporting interdisciplinary research.

     

  • AFAR welcomes new board member Joan Murtagh Frankel, Esq., a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP.

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Support our Scientists

AFAR, through its partnerships with the National Institute on Aging, foundations, corporations and individuals, has supported scientists at the earliest points in their careers helping them get a foot in the door to begin research careers and conduct the groundbreaking research that have made a significant impact on the health and well-being of all of us as we age. To learn how you can help, visit us at our website or contact Nancy O'Leary at 212-703-9977 or nancy@afar.org.

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