To tackle the rising prevalence of age-related diseases and the challenges and opportunities presented by a growing elderly population, the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging announced a joint PhD Biology of Aging Program, the first in the nation.
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.
USC Davis, the oldest and largest school of gerontology in the world, is dedicated to the study of aging and health across the life span since 1975. The Buck Institute, located in Marin County, Calif., is the United States’ first and the world’s foremost independent research institute focused on aging and chronic disease.
Faculty from both organizations will teach courses and mentor students, with the first class starting next fall; students will have the option of spending time at both the University Park Campus and at the Buck Institute in Northern California. The announcement was made on Nov. 20 at the opening of the annual meeting of the Geronotological Society of America in New Orleans.
“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 USC Davis Dean Pinchas Cohen. “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.”
Brian Kennedy, president and CEO of the Buck Institute, said: “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.
“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 No. 1 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 that appeared in the October issue of Health Affairs, researchers led by USC Professor Dana Goldman, director of the Leonard D. 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 treating individual diseases such as cancer of heart disease.
The researchers found that even modest success in efforts to slow aging would increase the number of nondisabled seniors by as much as 5 percent every year from 2030 to 2060, as reported by NPR, PBS, Wired and The Washington Post.