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USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Associate Professor Bérénice Benayoun has received the 2024 Vincent Cristofalo Rising Star in Aging Research Award from the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research.

Benayoun, who also has appointments in biological sciences, biochemistry and molecular medicine at USC, focuses her research on big data, sex differences, and immune function in relation to aging. Her lab’s overarching goal is to understand how genomic regulation mechanisms influence aging, health, and chronic disease, and how these mechanisms are modulated in response to environmental stimuli and in the context of specific endogenous factors, such as biological sex, in vertebrate model organisms. The Benayoun lab is also one of the pioneering labs in the development of a naturally short-lived vertebrate as a new model for aging research, the African turquoise killifish Nothobranchius furzeri.

“This award is a validation of my choice to substantially shift from my postdoctoral research topics and embrace research of sex differences. It’s so humbling to be an awardee, now among a long list of people I look up to in the field,” she said. “I am tremendously grateful to all my trainees so far, without whom I would not be in a position to receive this amazing award. Working with them has been a pleasure, and I want to dedicate this honor to them as well!”

Benayoun has authored 71 peer-reviewed publications (43 as first and/or corresponding author), and her overall body of work has been cited more than 5600 times. Leveraging her 2020 Glenn Foundation for Medical Research and AFAR Grants for Junior Faculty, she has secured a total of $7.58M in direct costs ($10.7M in total costs) across 16 grants, 14 as principal investigator/co-principal investigator, including an R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and a prestigious K99/R00 Pathway to Independence grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Benayoun also has been recognized with numerous awards for her research, including the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award from the Gerontological Society of America, Rising Star in Reproductive Biology Award from the Society for the Study of Reproduction, Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator Award in Mammalian Genetics, Pew Biomedical Scholar Award, and Junior Scholar Award from the Global Consortium for Reproductive Longevity and Equality.

“Bérénice is not only a brilliant, creative, and innovative scientist but is also dedicated to creating and sharing new data resources with colleagues across the world to advance the geroscience field as a whole,” said Pinchas Cohen, dean of the USC Leonard Davis School. “This award is richly deserved; she is truly a rising star who will continue to shine.”

Benayoun is the third USC Leonard Davis faculty member to receive the prestigious Cristofalo award. Colleagues Valter Longo and Sean Curran received the award in 2013 and 2020, respectively.

The award is named in honor of the late Vincent Cristofalo, who dedicated his career to aging research and encouraged young scientists to investigate important issues in the biology of aging. Established in 2008, the award is a framed citation and carries a cash prize of $5,000. Benayoun will receive the Cristofalo Award at the American Aging Association Annual Meeting on June 2 in Madison WI, where she will present a lecture on her research titled “Sex-dimorphic regulation of macrophage aging in mice.”

“Dr. Benayoun’s impact on the field of aging research and scientific community is far reaching, she has become a trusted collaborator to many and developed innovative new resources and data sets that she shares freely with the geroscience community,” said Stephanie Lederman, Executive Director of AFAR. “She carries on the visionary commitment of this award’s namesake by advancing research that will help us all live healthier, longer.”

Release courtesy of the American Federation for Aging Research. Additional reporting by Beth Newcomb.



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