U.S. Senate Convenes Historic Roundtable on Aging Research

Global Coalition on Aging Leads Call to Action for Federal Research Priorities

WASHINGTON, DC (October 31, 2013) — Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) Executive Director Michael W. Hodin, PhD, led a discussion with  the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Members’ Roundtable on the nation’s most pressing needs around aging demographics. The October 29 roundtable was called by Committee Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL) and included a diverse panel of leading medical and scientific experts on aging and the explosion of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which increase with age.

“For the first time, our country is reevaluating and resetting its priorities for national research, which is leading to a massive shift in how we fund NCD research in order to give us a healthier and more active aging,” said Hodin. “How we fund aging research is our biggest fiscal challenge and economic opportunity. If we can bend the curve on diseases that strike us as we age – Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease – and those physical capabilities that deteriorate as we age – our skin, vision, muscle capacity – we will transform how we live.”

Expert testimony from each of the panelists established the case not only for funding to enhance U.S. scientific competitiveness, but also for developing more coordinated research strategies across all sectors to better understand, address and cure NCDs.  According to the Gerontological Society of America, today less than one percent of the National Institutes of Health annual budget funds research into the underlying biology of aging and its role in the onset of disease.

Increased longevity, while challenging, also presents incredible opportunity. “The opportunity of population aging can be achieved through smarter spending on our health today,” said Hodin. “To truly change the paradigm of aging from one automatically associated with disease and disability to a healthier and happier process, we must view this spending as an investment – as we did in our spending on the space program, the interstate highway system and our nation’s children.”

“Medical research on ways to improve the health of our nation’s aging population should be a top priority. The need to increase collaboration among researchers has never been more important,” said Sen. Nelson during the roundtable.  Citing recently reduced research budgets due to sequestration, he noted the critical nature of the NIH to “our nation’s fiscal and physical health.”

Currently, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative is underway aimed at achieving four goals:

  1. Increasing collaboration across institutes involved in aging research;
  2. Uncovering how similar cross-cutting collaboration is beginning to occur in the university setting and in the private sector;
  3. Highlighting scientific areas where an aging-oriented approach to ameliorating disease is promising and where disease-specific research is beneficial; and
  4. Enabling a better understand of how delaying or preventing age-related chronic diseases can help bend the health care cost curve.

The roundtable preceded and helped inform the October 30-November 1 NIH Geroscience Interest Group (GSIG) Summit titled “Advances in Geroscience: Impact on Healthspan and Chronic Disease.” The summit welcomes 500 scientists from academic research centers from around the country.

The GSIG is a recently formed group focused on “geroscience,” the study of the relationship between aging and age-related disease and disability and is among the largest trans-NIH interest groups. The summit was opened by Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH.

GCOA applauds the Senate Special Committee on Aging for holding the roundtable, in particular Sen. Nelson, Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN).  We also congratulate the NIH, the Alliance for Aging Research and the Gerontological Society of America for leading the GSIG summit.

The roundtable participants were:

  • Richard Hodes, MD, Director, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
  • John Alam, MD, Head, Therapeutic Strategic Area for Diseases of Aging, Sanofi-Aventis
  • James Kirkland, MD, PhD, Professor, Noaber Foundation Professor of Aging Research and Director, Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, Mayo Clinic
  • Richard Morimoto, PhD, Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences and Director, Rice Institute for Biomedical Research, Northwestern University
  • David Morgan, PhD, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Byrd Alzheimer Institute and Director of Neuroscience Research, University of South Florida College of Medicine

For more information about the roundtable, click here for the Committee’s website.

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