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Expanding our borders: Planning for a third geroscience summit

Felipe SIERRA [Former NIA Staff],
Division of Aging Biology (DAB).

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. The field of geroscience has grown tremendously since our summits in 2013 and 2016, and now we find ourselves moving faster than ever and planning a third summit. This time, our goal will be to engage professional societies, stakeholder groups, and researchers interested in specific chronic diseases and conditions of older people, and exchange ideas on the role of aging biology in these health problems.

We need your help

Our current plan is to hold the third Summit in Bethesda, Maryland, in the spring of 2019. But importantly, we haven’t decided on the themes and specific topics we might be able to cover. To help with those decisions, we recently posted a Request for Information (RFI) to gauge the level of interest in geroscience and aging biology among the audiences mentioned above. We hope you’ll help us spread the word about this, because the input received will help shape the plans for the Summit—including but not limited to the diseases and conditions that we might include in the agenda. The deadline for comments is June 1, 2018.

Geroscience keeps growing

The first Geroscience Summit, “Advances in Geroscience: Impact on Healthspan and Chronic Disease,” took place in November 2013 at the NIH campus in Bethesda. Our goal was to introduce the concept of geroscience to the community and discuss what we called the major “pillars of aging.” In April 2016, we hosted a second Summit, “Advances in Geroscience: Disease Drivers of Aging,” at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City. That meeting focused on the opposite side of the coin: While aging is certainly the major risk factor for chronic diseases, some chronic diseases are in turn a major risk factor for accelerated aging.

What about the third Summit? Though geroscience is now more established in the research field, the concept is virtually unheard-of in communities beyond those normally served by the NIA. We want to change this in the third Summit by engaging additional groups, such as professional societies, disease-specific organizations, and other key players, whose interests focus on individual age-related diseases or conditions, but who may not be aware of geroscience concepts and why this field may be of scientific interest to them.

What do we want to know?

We’re looking for your input on the following topics in the RFI:

  1. Recommendations for specific age-related chronic diseases or conditions that should be considered in the planning for a third NIH Geroscience Summit;
  2. Feedback on whether individual organizations may be interested in contributing to the planning of such a Summit, and areas of interest for participation;
  3. Feedback on whether individual organizations may be interested in participating in a summit session or sub-session encompassing scientific presentations by public and private stakeholders about the links between specific chronic diseases and geroscience; and
  4. Input on the potential impact of this type of session on future scientific needs and progress in specific diseases affected by aging.

I encourage you to publicize this RFI among your colleagues, members, or other contacts. We’d appreciate anything you can do—putting a short notice on your website, forwarding this blog post to your community, or including it in your social media messages. We want to generate interest and gain maximum participation from the professional non-research community. Again, the deadline for response is on June 1. Send your questions, comments, and ideas to or feel free to comment below.


Submitted by Rose Ramos, PhD, MPH on May 09, 2018

There continues to be a paucity of studies that seek to further our understanding in how unmet and met social determinants of health (SDoH) confer their impact through a "culturally-diverse" lens. In other words, the impact of SDoH is not a "one size fits all" and cultural-diversity extends beyond phenotype. Here in South Texas, we are examining how met and unmet SDoH impact health status among Mexican-Americans in active treatment for multiple chronic conditions. We are finding that the factors that protect against social isolation and poor self-efficacy (e.g., social identity, social engagement) are highly prevalent among poor Mexican-Americans residing in medically under-resourced communities. Thus, is a culturally-diverse perception of "community" a protective factor for persistent morbidity and perhaps accelerated aging among individuals living with multiple chronic conditions in medically under-resourced areas?
Thanks for the opportunity to offer a comment and suggestion.

Submitted by Karen Moss on May 09, 2018

I am suggesting foci on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, end-of-life care and planning, as well as underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in aging. These topics can be separated or combined to fit the focus of the meeting. Thank you.

Submitted by Barbara Schneider on May 09, 2018

Would love to see work on the social/spiritual needs of those with lifelong disabilities as they age. Often these people are relegated to institutions with varying services and are dependent upon paid caregivers. Inspiring greater compassion in people who can help alleviate the loneliness and isolation experienced in these settings is another possibility. Isolation has been identified as being toxic to humans, especially so for those with disabilities.

Submitted by Turner Overton on May 10, 2018

With the advancements in antiretroviral therapy, HIV infection has been transformed from a uniformly fatal illness to a chronic medical condition that is manifest by persistent inflammation and immune activation that contribute to increasing prevalence of aging-related comorbidities. It remains unclear what the drivers of these comorbidities are: HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy toxicities, alterations in immune function, viral co-infections, certain social and behavioral factors that are associated with HIV. We need additional studies to inform the changing epidemiology of HIV disease and evaluate what therapeutics are relevant to the emerging field of HIV and Aging.

Submitted by Philip Sloane on May 11, 2018

- Interactions between social/physical environment and health (including novel methods such as GPS and satellite imaging);
- More about underlying causes and contributing factors to geriatric syndromes (e.g. delirium, dysphagia);
- Better understanding of causes and prevention of loss of the ability to walk (which parallels cognitive impairment in number of individuals involved and impact on health service needs);
- Relationship between genetic factors and adverse drug effects

Submitted by George M. Martin on May 13, 2018

Geroscientists have made great progress in the search for genotypes that provide unusual susceptibilities to specific geriatric disorders. While there has been progress in the identification of environmental factors that appear to either accelerate or slow rates of development of various geriatric disorders, the search for genotypes that provide unusual protection against specific geriatric disorders has been comparatively neglected, despite their potentials to contribute to translational research and the long history of successful identifications of non–allelic suppressors in microbial genetics. Having such a call for action would be an opportunity to attract a range of specific private foundations to this third Gerosciences Summit. Examples could include the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the Progeria Research Foundation, the American Federation for Aging Research, the Paul Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, etc.

Submitted by Sebastian on May 14, 2018

Geroscientists should focus on translating geroprotective therapeutics to the clinic before the global demographic aging crisis ("Silver Tsunami") wipes out govarnment balance sheets and results in a dementia care facility on every street corner.

There are many academic papers collecting dust that might have been translated into therapeutic spinout companies. Oncology has been fairly successful in part due to the industry-orientation of academics, who know how and when to patent and spin out IP. Geroscientists might appreciate help in this arena.

- The Interventions Testing Program and similar C. elegans program are great starts to drugging aging.

- Developing accurate biomarkers would also be helpful for performing clinical trials to slow and reverse aging itself. So what if aging isn't a "disease" -- that's semantics -- we can already slow it down and extend healthspan by over 20% in mice.

- An SBIR-type seed funding program specifically for geroscience projects within academia possessing translational potential would be helpful.

- Building a bridge between venture capital, biopharma, and academia might aid with the academic funding crunch via sponsored research. At present, 99% of biopharma and VC are taking the whack-a-mole approach -- one disease at a time. There are very few VCs, like Apollo Ventures, that focus exclusively on geroscience.

The NIA is spending the majority of its budget on Alzheimer's, and focusing on the failed amyloid hypothesis paradigm. A much smaller fraction of the budget goes to the basic biology of aging, which has the potential to ameliorate not only AD but all age-related conditions.

Keep up the great work, to Felipe and friends at the NIA!

Submitted by Carolyn Dujon … on May 15, 2018

Some of the research is suggesting MDD is a prodrome of dementia. There is an increase in suicide ideations, behaviors, and actions in the older adult population that suffer from Depressive disorders and dementias later in life. Prevention is key.

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