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I’m very pleased to report that only seven short years after taking our first steps in geroscience, we’re now ready to expand the reach of the field into new areas with a third Summit on Geroscience. While the concept of geroscience—seeking 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—has been well accepted within the aging biology research community, the goal of the upcoming Summit is to extend our reach into new areas of scientific endeavor and to involve new participants, including disease advocates and policymakers.

The Summit will take place on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland on November 4–5, 2019. You may recall that this past May, I wrote a blog post asking for your input on topics to feature at the Summit. That post described a Request for Information (RFI) which asked for input on the focus of the Summit. The response was fantastic. Thanks to those of you who responded and to the advocates who helped us disseminate the request. In fact, we received more than 70 written responses, in addition to numerous papers, PowerPoint presentations and other supporting documents. As we hoped, we heard from active researchers in aging biology, along with many disease-focused organizations, several of which expressed their interest in helping NIH with planning and outreach activities.

An unexpected response

We expected that we’d hear from individuals working on cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening conditions. And, we did hear from those groups. But we also heard loud and clear that there are many other areas in which we can focus our attention. In fact, the topics that received the most interest from the respondents were musculoskeletal diseases and oral health. Each of these topics received two to three times more attention than the diseases mentioned above.

As a result of the RFI responses and discussions among staff from several NIH Institutes, we chose to devote some time and attention to conditions that—while not identified as major causes of death—nevertheless have significant effects on quality of life in older people.

An agenda emerges

Based on this feedback, we’ve developed a preliminary Summit agenda. We plan to start by discussing the general concepts and recent advances in geroscience so that everyone is on the same page. Then we’ll have several sessions covering a variety of topics:

  • Three sessions devoted to particular diseases, covering the major killers: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and COPD.
  • A session on musculoskeletal diseases and neurodegeneration, followed by another session on diseases of the senses, focusing mainly on hearing and vision. These conditions are not usually considered as major causes of death, but their importance is significant in terms of decreased quality of life.
  • Two sessions on age-related conditions not recognized as actual diseases, including oral health, sleep, pain, frailty, and fatigability.

The final Summit session will explore the regulatory issues that we must consider as we strive to bring the concepts of geroscience to the clinic and to older patients.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone who provided input on discussion topics. With your help, I believe we have a truly interesting and relevant Summit planned for next year. In the meantime, mark your calendars and keep an eye out for details in the months ahead.

Geroscience Meetings Felipe SIERRA

A third geroscience summit on the horizon

As we look forward to a bevy of fall activities, I’d like to update you on some of the Office of Special Populations’ (OSP) recent happenings and activities.

Butler-Williams Scholars gather at NIH

This summer’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program was everything we hoped it would be! More than 50 diverse early-career investigators traveled to the NIH campus to hear tips on developing grant applications and discuss best practices for conducting rigorous research on aging. The 2018 Scholars are doing exciting work in various domains of aging research, and we encourage you to follow their journey to becoming NIA-supported investigators by following @BWscholars2018 on Twitter. Special thanks go to the John A. Hartford Foundation for its support of the B-W Scholars and to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Gerontological Society of America for sponsoring ancillary activities associated with this year’s program! Information and applications for the 2019 program will be available in December; applications are due in March.

Health disparities research related to aging

OSP continues to use the NIA Health Disparities Research Framework to spark collaborations with NIA extramural divisions and encourage health disparities research in aging. We recently teamed with colleagues in the Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology to develop the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) PA-18-751, Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology Research to Address Health Disparities. This FOA stimulated research applications on geriatric conditions where disparities emerge in diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment. Funded projects range from research to identify appropriate markers for cognitive decline in African Americans to an investigation of autoimmune comorbidity as a factor for racial disparities in lung physiology.

Another FOA released this year focuses on engaging and recruiting people from diverse populations to participate in aging research. PAR-18-749, Examining Diversity, Recruitment and Retention in Aging Research (R24) encourages collaborative teams to target gaps in methods and outcomes regarding recruiting and retaining these critical participants. This approach will be used to develop resources for researchers seeking to include diverse populations in aging research.

NIA also encourages research on disparities in Alzheimer’s disease with PAR-15-349, Health Disparities and Alzheimer’s Disease (R01) and PAR-15-350, Emerging Directions for Addressing Health Disparities in Alzheimer’s Disease (R03). These FOAs have proved very popular, with NIA supporting more than 60 research projects so far.

Upcoming Events

Looking ahead, we’re excited to hold the 2018 NIA Director’s Regional Meeting on November 1, 2018 at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KS. NIA senior staff and division directors will share information on NIA research and training resources, technical assistance on grant writing, and advice on the design of new research proposals. You can register online for this NIA outreach activity.

If you’re planning to attend the 2018 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in San Diego, I hope you’ll check out the activities of its Aging and Public Health Section. A session on Tuesday, November 13, at 10:30 a.m. will highlight health disparities research by some of the early career investigators at the NIA-funded Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research.

Investigators from the NIA’s Health Disparities Research Network will also be busy during the 2018 Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Boston, MA. Butler-Williams Scholars Program Alumni are partnering with GSA’s Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization to hold a panel session that showcases their innovative health disparities research Friday, November 16 at 8:30 a.m. In addition, all the awardees from last year’s NIA Health Disparities Research Administrative Supplement will join a panel session on Saturday, November 17 at 12:30 p.m. to present their aging biology research focused on health disparities.

I hope you’ll join our network in Overland Park, San Diego, and/or Boston to discuss NIA’s resources and hear about aging research from our awardees!

Diversity Funding Opportunities Meetings Carl V. HILL

Office of Special Populations continues the momentum in 2018

Sticks and stones aren’t the only things that can break your bones—osteoporosis is also a main cause. In fact, 50 percent of women and 20 percent of men over age 50 will break a bone because of low bone mass or poor bone quality. In addition to pain, fractures in older people can lead to disability, impaired quality of life, and increased mortality.

To better understand current knowledge gaps in osteoporosis research and identify future needs in using osteoporosis drugs, NIH is hosting a Pathways to Prevention (P2P) Workshop: Appropriate Use of Drug Therapies for Osteoporotic Fracture Prevention. The workshop will take place on October 30 – 31, 2018, on the NIH campus in Bethesda. It’s co-sponsored by the NIA, the NIH Office of Disease Prevention, and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The workshop is free and open to the public—including researchers, practitioners, advocates, patients, and their families. See more information about how to register below.

Input needed on major questions

This P2P workshop will address the following questions:

  • How do osteoporotic drugs benefit us and what risks do we run—including major adverse events—when we take them?
  • Over the short term (3 to 5 years)?
  • Over the longer term?
  • Do we all enjoy the same benefits? Or face the same risks?
  • What patient and clinician factors matter?
  • Do drug holidays help?

Bisphosphonates—the first-line drug treatment for most people with osteoporosis—have proven effective with short-term use among people with a high risk of fracture. But, the benefits of long-term treatment on fracture prevention are less clear.

For example, we don’t have detailed scientific data about the appropriate long-term use of many osteoporosis drugs. We don’t know who will benefit or who may be harmed by long-term use; the once-promising decline in the incidence of osteoporotic fractures has now levelled off. These changes have raised concerns among the public and within medical and professional communities: Drugs are not being prescribed for many people who might need them and people with prescriptions are not taking the drugs.

We also have limited evidence about drug holidays—when a patient stops taking a drug for a specified period of time and then resumes taking the drug. We don’t know when to start them, how long they should last, and which patients might benefit from them.

Register now!

We look forward to a lively session. Registration is required and we strongly encourage in-person attendance. You can register for the workshop and get additional information online. The workshop will also be videocast.

I hope you’ll be able to join us for this important workshop. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Clinical Research Meetings Lyndon JOSEPH

Save the Date! Workshop on osteoporotic drugs and prevention

NIA staff are gearing up for the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2018, taking place this year in Chicago, July 22-26. AAIC is dedicated to advancing dementia science, and we’re looking forward to attending alongside thousands from the Alzheimer’s community.

AAIC is an opportunity for dementia researchers, clinicians, advocates, and health care providers from around the world to share research discoveries, learn about emerging technologies and new approaches, and advance our shared goals of discovering effective treatments and preventions for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Many of the discussions and presentations will center on projects and collaborations supported by NIH.

Where can you find NIA staff?

NIA leadership and staff are participating in several sessions, so keep an eye out for us if you want to touch base. If you’re interested in NIH projects and/or support, here are a few sessions you may want to catch:

  • Tuesday, July 24, 10:30 – 11:00 a.m.

The Winds of Change: Transformative Data Resources for Alzheimer’s Research
In this plenary session, NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes will talk about innovative ways to conduct research, share data, and translate findings into practice. Cutting-edge research conducted and supported by NIA and other NIH institutes has helped to revolutionize the way we think about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

  • Monday, July 23, 4:15 – 5:45 p.m.

New NIH Policies on Inclusion – Implications for Alzheimer’s Clinical Study Recruitment and Tools to Help
NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie Bernard and I will chair this session, which will provide an overview of recent NIH initiatives to support increasing recruitment and retention into clinical studies for Alzheimer’s disease. NIA staff will present results of a trans-NIH portfolio analysis of inclusion showing a need for increased recruitment of a broad spectrum of people; progress on a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease clinical study recruitment; and a new funding opportunity to enhance the science of recruitment.

  • Monday, July 23, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

NIA Health Disparities Research Network: Novel Approaches for Addressing Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

Dr. Carl Hill, director of NIA’s Office of Special Populations, and Dr. Cerise Elliott, senior scientific program analyst in our Division of Neuroscience, will serve as co-moderators of this session, which will highlight currently funded research focusing on health disparities in Alzheimer’s disease. Eight presentations and accompanying discussions will provide important research approaches for addressing health disparities over the life course and in late life.

  • Wednesday, July 25, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Operationalizing the NIA-AA AD Research Framework
The new National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association research framework outlines a biological approach for defining Alzheimer’s disease designed to facilitate better understanding of the disease process and result in a faster approach to testing interventions. This symposium will provide an overview of the framework and include a discussion on criteria for its future evaluation.

In a pre-conference workshop on Saturday, July 21 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Sage Bionetworks will launch a tool to help researchers leverage analyses from the NIA-funded Accelerating Medicines Partnership – Alzheimer’s Disease (AMP-AD) program. The interactive, web-based Agora platform will include a list of potential Alzheimer’s disease drug targets nominated by the AMP-AD teams, allowing researchers outside the consortium to get involved in target evaluation.

I hope you’ll take the time to stop and chat with NIA and NIH staff you see at the various presentations, poster sessions, and gatherings. It’s a great time to connect with colleagues, students, mentors, and everyone interested in Alzheimer’s research. See you in Chicago!

Alzheimer's Disease Meetings Research Eliezer MASLIAH

Watch for NIA at AAIC in the Windy City!

A standing-room-only crowd of extramural and intramural scientists filled a room at the NIH main campus in Bethesda on April 30, when researchers from NIA joined colleagues from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for a collaborative scientific workshop on cancer in aging. We were excited and gratified by the turnout and by the high level of interest among the participants to tackle the multiple intersections of aging and cancer.

The day represented the culmination of a joint effort of a “dream team”—NCI, NIA, and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation—to develop a partnership and funding opportunity in this area. This is the first time that intramural and extramural staff from NIA and another NIH institute have a formal agreement to support a unique research opportunity. Dr. Tom Misteli, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, noted that it took more than a year just to work out the legal issues of the funding opportunity for the partnership.

A combination of epidemiology and basic science

This funding opportunity is particularly timely because of the alignment of two important elements: the epidemiology of cancer and aging, and recent progress in basic science, especially in geroscience.

As cancer treatments have grown more effective, we have more cancer survivors than ever before. And, they’re living longer than previous cancer survivors. In addition, many cancers occur in middle age or later. As NCI Director Dr. Ned Sharpless pointed out in his opening remarks, fighting a “war on cancer” really means a research struggle against basic human biology and aging, since the aging process itself increases the risk of many cancers.

Along with the epidemiology comes a wealth of new research on the relationship between cancer and the aging process itself. We’re beginning to see biological similarities between aging and cancer, particularly in terms of stress response at the cellular level, the role of senescent cells, and the response to genetic and epigenetic changes over time.

Crucial areas for investigation

Workshop presentations covered many issues related to both cancer and aging. Among them:

  • Geroscience’s perspective on aging in cancer
  • Including other age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and stroke in cancer prevention clinical trials
  • Resilience and cancer treatment
  • How molecular understanding of aging informs knowledge of cancer risk
  • The urgent need for geriatric oncology and specialized training for oncologists, recognizing that older patients are very different from younger ones
  • Noncoding RNA control of cellular senescence at the crossroads of aging and cancer
  • Fatigability and physical performance in cancer survivors

Connecting intramural and extramural research

The recent funding opportunity provided an opportunity for collaboration between intramural and extramural researchers from NIA and NCI. Extramural researchers could submit applications (developed in conjunction with intramural scientists) for awards of up to $75,000 in direct costs per year for two years. If approved, matching funds in the same amount will be allocated to the NIA or NCI intramural investigators with whom they are collaborating.

We received a number of promising applications in response to this announcement and are looking forward to the review process. The awards are expected to be made next spring. In addition, researchers from both NIA and NCI are working together to develop proposals for joint funding from the intramural programs of the two Institutes.

I want to express my thanks to all of the scientists who participated in the meeting with high-quality presentations and discussions. Particular thanks are due to NCI’s Drs. Sharpless and Misteli and Dr. Felipe Sierra, director of NIA’s Division of Aging Biology, along with their respective staffs. We’re looking forward to additional future collaborations with NCI and other NIH Institutes.

In the meantime, please let us know if you have ideas about this topic by commenting below.

Geroscience Meetings Research Luigi FERRUCCI

A 'dream team' collaboration on cancer in aging

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.

Geroscience Meetings Felipe SIERRA

Expanding our borders: Planning for a third geroscience summit

“In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” wrote the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. And so, here at NIA, our thoughts are lightly turning to the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). Not quite the same as the blissful excitement of young love, but interesting and important nonetheless. We’re looking forward to attending the meeting and hope to see you there, May 3–5, in Orlando, Florida.

As always, NIA and the AGS Research Committee are offering two symposia—one for junior researchers new to aging and one for senior researchers.

The ABCs of NIA Grantsmanship – for Early-Stage Researchers

The new researcher session is again in the first hour of the first day of the meeting – Thursday, May 3, from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m., in the Asia 5 Room. We look forward to seeing morning people and those who have loaded up on caffeine. I’ll start things off with a summary of some of the opportunities for funding of new investigators and projections of possible pay lines this fiscal year. Dr. Robin Barr of our Division of Extramural Activities will then tell you how to get an NIA grant. Dr. Caroline Blaum of the NYU Medical School will describe what it’s like to be on a review panel at NIH’s Center for Scientific Review. We’ll wind things up with the perspective of a member of the Junior Faculty Special Interest Group, Dr. Michael LaMantia of the University of Vermont.

Because of the more compressed time for sessions, the podium presentations will be quite brief, taking no more than 30 minutes total. In the second half of the hour, we’ll have small group discussions, organized into a range of topics, such as K awards, response to critique and the review process, and strategies for efficient use of time in communicating with program officers.

NIA Symposium for Senior Researchers: A Conversation with the NIA Senior Leadership

Later the same day, from 1:30–2:30 p.m., we’ll be back in the Asia 5 Room for our update for seasoned researchers. This symposium is intended for independently funded researchers and established investigators at a mid- to senior career level and will offer an update from NIA staff on research programs and initiatives.

This year, the session will start with three brief presentations. I’ll talk about what is coming in the near future—NIH policy requiring provision of individual level data on sex/gender, race/ethnicity, and age at enrollment for NIH-funded clinical studies; Dr. Basil Eldadah will follow with a discussion of what’s ongoing—changes in general to NIH clinical trials; and Dr. Robin Barr will talk about what has been—top errors seen in NIH/NIA applications. The remaining 40 to 45 minutes will be devoted to an NIA café: Small group discussions with various program staff, akin to what we’ve done over the years in the junior researcher session.

See you in the Exhibit Hall!

Finally, please make sure to stop by the NIA Exhibit in Booth #708. The Exhibit Hall is open on Thursday from noon to 6:00 p.m. and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m. We’ll have the latest publications for patients and research information from NIA for you to take home, as well as friendly staff to answer questions about NIA funding, outreach opportunities, and more.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando and hearing where your thoughts are lightly turning this spring. 

Clinical Research Meetings Marie BERNARD

A sure sign of spring - The AGS annual meeting!

On March 25–27, the NIA welcomed current and former grantees from more than 26 medical and surgical specialties, along with mentors who are leaders in aging research within their specialties, to the third biennial meeting of GEMSSTAR (Grants for Early Medical/Surgical Specialists' Transition to Aging Research) Scholars. The meeting featured a combination of aging-themed presentations, Scholars’ posters, career development training, and networking opportunities. It was clear at this meeting that the past and current GEMSSTAR grantees are on the right path to be the future leaders in geriatrics/aging within their various specialties.

This year’s meeting focused on “The Impact of Cognitive Impairment across Specialties.” Along with the greater number of older people in the population comes a greater number of people at risk for age-related cognitive decline, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The opening keynote session featured Dr. John Morris of Washington University in St. Louis and Dr. David Reuben of UCLA. Other sessions featured presentations on sensory contributors to cognitive impairment, informed consent for people with cognitive impairment, and the causes and consequences of delirium in older patients.


Prompted by the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 report, “Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce,” which emphasized the need to increase the knowledge, training, and research efforts of clinicians working with older people, GEMSSTAR was launched in 2011 to fill the gap. This unique grant mechanism enables early-career clinician-scientists within medical and surgical specialties to jumpstart or transition their career to focus on an aging-related aspect of their discipline. The award provides funding for an R03 grant for up to $75,000 in direct costs each year for two years. Before GEMSSTAR was created, the T Franklin Williams and Dennis Jahnigen Scholars Programs provided career development support to attract and retain medical and surgical specialists, respectively, to aging/geriatrics research. Several former Williams and Jahnigen Scholars, who are now leaders in specialty aging research, were invited to serve as mentors, role models and potential collaborators to the GEMSSTAR Scholars.

In addition to the support from NIA, GEMSSTAR Scholars are strongly encouraged to submit an individualized Professional Development Plan—for which they need to obtain funding from a different source—to work with a mentor with the expertise to help build their research and clinical skills in geriatrics while they are conducting their two-year research project.

The NIA offers approximately 15 GEMSSTAR awards per year and has funded a total of 111 GEMSSTAR Scholars to date. The competition for GEMSSTAR awards is stiff and we’re always impressed by the caliber of the applicants.

Why is the GEMSSTAR meeting important?

The Scholars Conferences, supported by a cooperative agreement between the American Geriatrics Society and NIA, aim to bring together everyone involved in the program to present their research findings, obtain dedicated mentoring, find opportunities to collaborate, enhance career development skills, and expand the network of outstanding clinicians committed to aging research. We feel the meeting is increasingly important as it provides a rare opportunity for multiple medical and surgical specialists to focus on specific ways they have developed to implement more seamless care for older patients across many disciplines.

For example, in featured presentations during the poster session, 12 Scholars from thematically connected areas described how they developed and implemented specialized programs in a new setting and then fielded questions from participants and moderators. Measuring frailty in the intensive care unit, building an interdisciplinary team to differentiate between accidental injuries and elder abuse, and developing customized assessments for older patients in the emergency department were among the topics discussed.

Get ready for the next round of awards

If you’re a medical, surgical or dental specialist with an interest in developing your research career, GEMSSTAR represents an exceptional opportunity. I encourage you to check our funding opportunities page for the Request for Applications (RFA) over the next few months. We expect to release the RFA for the next GEMSSTAR awards sometime in May, 2018. The deadline is likely to be in October, 2018 for funding which will start in July, 2019. We don’t anticipate significant changes to the 2019 GEMSSTAR RFA from the 2018 version, so if you’d like to start working on an application, you can use the 2018 RFA-AG-18-015 as a reference.

More information on GEMSSTAR is available on the NIA website. If you have specific questions about the program, please feel free to contact me through the GEMSSTAR email. In the meantime, we welcome your comments below.

Clinical Research Meetings Training Susan ZIEMAN

GEMSSTAR Scholars focus on how cognitive impairment intersects with their specialties

Among the initiatives launched under the 21st Century Cures Act, which brought us the Cancer Moonshot, the BRAIN initiative, and the All of Us precision medicine program, is the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project (RMIP). NIH, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is taking the lead on this exciting new venture, which seeks to accelerate clinical research on adult stem cells while promoting the highest standards for conducting research and protecting patient safety. RMIP offers exciting possibilities for aging research, which we are beginning to explore.

A gathering of minds

Just a few weeks ago, more than 400 experts from academia, industry, and private foundations met with staff from multiple NIH institutes and the FDA in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss the future of adult stem cell therapies. Cochaired by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Director Dr. Gary Gibbons and FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks, the gathering assessed the state of the science and the basis for developing safe and effective regenerative products targeting adult stem cells.

Importantly, the meeting resulted in plans to publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) later this year. Similar to supplements funded last year, applicants must obtain dollar-for-dollar non-federal matching funds for these applications. The workshop agenda (PDF, 284K), speaker biographies (PDF, 2.6M), and videos of each session are available online. Based on a set of key questions, the workshop was designed to identify scientific, technical, and operational challenges and highlight strategies for enabling major advances and development of clinical applications using adult stem cells.

A focus on aging

Many cutting-edge findings relevant to the aging community were presented and discussed. For example:

  • Dr. Joshua Hare focused on treating frailty in older people with mesenchymal stem cell transplantation, reporting results of seven promising Phase II clinical trials.
  • Dr. Robert Mays reported safety and efficacy results of a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled Phase II trial which used multipotent adult progenitor cells to treat ischemic stroke in middle aged and older adults.
  • Dr. Lorenz Studor described phase I trials using stem cell-based treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  
  • Dr. Sean Savitz spoke on the importance of matching the appropriate cell types and states of maturation to particular diseases. He also mentioned the need to understand the mechanisms involved in more complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Upcoming funding opportunities

The workshop recommendations have led to several planned initiatives in FY 2018. As many as 12 NIH Institutes and the FDA are supporting this effort. Three initiatives will focus on clinical trial research for nonprofit organizations and small businesses, while three others will invite applications for research that does not require a clinical trial (U01, UT1/UT2, U43/U44). The Notices of Intent to Publish are now available at:

To help would-be applicants, a list of frequently asked questions is available on the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project website. Please feel free to post your comments or additional questions so we can make sure we add them to the list. In the meantime, keep an eye out for these initiatives, coming soon!

Funding Opportunities Meetings Research Candace KERR

Regenerative medicine conference points to new research opportunities

It's one of those things that no one really wants to talk about. People are often uncomfortable and embarrassed to mention it to their physician or other primary care provider. It's also one of the most common medical conditions among older people, affecting more than half of women and more than a quarter of men age 65 and older, according to the CDC. In fact, up to 80 percent of long-term care residents have this condition.

Yes, we're talking about urinary incontinence (UI). And, we want to talk about it further with you, when I hope you will join us for a conference this coming February, to discuss research to help individualize UI treatments, thereby improving treatment outcomes.

Older adults with UI have a hard time. Quality of life suffers. Risk of depression increases. Too many become socially isolated. And risk of disabling falls increases. Incontinence is also associated with loss of independence and ultimately institutionalization. Sadly, UI is both underreported and undertreated.

Talking about patient-centered solutions

Our colleagues at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) support a large portfolio of research on UI. In March of 2017, they sponsored the first of two meetings on "Individualizing Treatment – Broadening the Framework for Urinary Incontinence Research." Participants reviewed many biologic and non-biologic factors that may influence individual treatment success and identified hypotheses and research questions to build the knowledge base that will enable better targeting of existing treatments to appropriate people with UI.

In a couple of months, we'll be looking for many of you at the second meeting in this series—on February 1–2, 2018, on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The goals of this meeting are to build on the ideas generated by the first, and to develop fundable, interdisciplinary, investigator-initiated research proposals that will lead to better outcomes for current UI treatments by individualizing them to each patient. This broad research framework is designed to enhance interdisciplinary thinking among specialties and professionals in UI research, including pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeons, urologists, urogynecologists, geriatricians, scientists, engineers, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, administrators, and economists.

The conference agenda is available on NIDDK's website. NIA and other NIH Institutes will be participating, along with other federal agencies. We encourage you to invite your colleagues with diverse areas of expertise to facilitate interdisciplinary research planning. It's not necessary to have attended the March 2017 meeting to attend this one.

You can register online for the February conference. Information on travel and lodging is also available online.

NIA, AGS shed light on UI

NIA has also been studying UI. With the American Geriatrics Society (AGS), we've been supporting a series of bench-to-bedside conferences over the past 10 years. Recently, the series addressed three common geriatric syndromes—delirium, sleep disturbances, and urinary incontinence. Research has shown that these conditions share a number of common risk factors and physiological mechanisms.

In October 2016, NIA and AGS sponsored "Urinary Incontinence in the Older Adult: A Translational Research Agenda for a Complex Geriatric Syndrome." More than 75 basic and clinical investigators attended this meeting, which reviewed the current state of the science in three areas:

  • overlap with other geriatric conditions and potentially sharing common pathways,
  • mechanisms of bladder and lower urinary tract function from the perspectives of both basic and clinical science, and
  • interventions including models of care delivery.

At the conference's conclusion, participants identified and prioritized several research gaps in the above areas that could inform future research. Priority areas included developing a better understanding of causes of incontinence; the relationship of incontinence to falls, depression and other problems of older adults; and designing effective treatments. The meeting summary was published online on December 4 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

How do you think we can move research and dialogue on this topic forward toward better clinical solutions?

Clinical Research Meetings Marcel SALIVE

Older adults may not want to talk about it. But we do!