$4 Million National Institute on Aging Grant Supports Next Generation of Geroscientists

USC-Buck Geroscience Training Program in the Biology of Aging funds pre- and postdoctoral researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School.

The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging recently received a $4 million award from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) that continues and expands the institutions’ jointly run Geroscience Training Program in the Biology of Aging.

The five-year grant, which doubles the amount of the initial 2014 award, supports both predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees and aims to prepare them to lead the next generation of research in geroscience – a multidisciplinary approach to the study of aging that, as defined by the NIA,  seeks to understand the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that make aging a major risk factor and driver of common chronic conditions and diseases of older people. Since its inception, thirteen predoctoral and six postdoctoral trainees have been supported by the T32 grant.

“The need for professionals with solid interdisciplinary training in aging research has been exponentially increasing as major breakthroughs have occurred at the intersections of traditional biological fields,” said Distinguished Professor Kelvin Davies, Executive Vice Dean of the Leonard Davis School and the principal investigator of the Biology of Aging Training Grant. “The renewal of our training grant recognizes the quality of our research and training in various biological disciplines at the forefront of geroscience research and provides substantial support to allow both to continue and grow.”

The training program is a key component the nation’s first Biology of Aging PhD program, a USC PhD degree run as a cooperative venture between the USC Leonard Davis School and the Buck Institute in Novato, Calif., which draws on the two institutions’ long-established leadership and expertise in understanding the connection between aging and chronic disease through biomedical research.

Started in 2014 and directed by Davies, the Biology of Aging PhD enables students to become experts in the theory and methods of one specific area of biological research but also prepares them to incorporate methods and approaches from other disciplines of cutting-edge areas of biology and gerontological research. To date, 14 students have earned PhDs and more than 40 others are currently progressing through the program.

The USC Leonard Davis School and the Buck Institute also received a five-year, $4.6 million NIA award in 2020 to jointly establish a Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging.

“Our combined team of scientists have a long and established track record of leadership and discovery across the spectrum of geroscience disciplines,” said principal investigator of the USC-Buck Nathan Shock Center Eric Verdin, president and chief executive officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. “Continued support from the NIA enables us to continue to positively impact the future of our field and to transform the way we approach the study of chronic disease and aging processes to extend healthspan.”

In addition to the Geroscience Training Program in the Biology of Aging, the USC Leonard Davis School also receives NIA support for the Multidisciplinary Research Training Program in Gerontology, which has been funded since 1977 and supports predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees whose research focus is on factors influencing human physical and mental health and aging. It is directed by University Professor Eileen M. Crimmins and co-directed by Mara Mather, Professor of Gerontology and Psychology at the USC Leonard Davis School.