Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 19 December 2001
Vol. 2001, Issue 12, p. nw44
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2001.12.nw44]


Researchers Join Up: British initiative draws new talent to research on aging (Research funding)

Katharine Miller;2001/12/nw44

Key Words: Experimental Research on Ageing • ERA • Science of Ageing • SAGE • United Kingdom

Abstract: This week, the United Kingdom's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) announced the 19 recipients of research money aimed at diversifying the U.K.'s army of investigators in the field of aging. The recruits, who will share �4.2 million ($6.1 million), include researchers new to the area as well as several of the field's four-star generals. "We've got a broad portfolio of interesting research," says Alf Game, head of the genetics and biochemistry branch at the BBSRC. The funds come from the BBSRC's Experimental Research on Ageing (ERA) initiative, a project set up to support aging-related disciplines in which the United Kingdom comes up short.

Three years ago, the BBSRC created ERA's parent project, the Science of Ageing (SAGE) initiative (which is unrelated to SAGE KE), which funded 3-year projects to encourage academics to enter the field. SAGE drew researchers who study immunology and cell senescence, but it attracted few from other disciplines. That's where ERA comes in, especially now that SAGE has ended. "The new initiative prioritized the areas not strongly supported under SAGE," says Game, including muscle biology, genomics, and model systems of aging such as the premature aging disorder Werner syndrome (see "Of Hyperaging and Methuselah Genes")

Some of the newcomers who've signed on are Roger K. Smith and Michael T. Bayliss, both from the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. These large-animal vets will apply their understanding of the muscular system to the field of aging. Mark Viney, a biologist at the University of Bristol, had never worked in the field before either; he studies a nematode that--unlike its cousin Caenorhabditis elgans--hasn't been exploited in aging-related research. He joined when David Gems, a geneticist at University College London, suggested that they collaborate. "We bring together expertise on aging and this specific worm," says Viney.

Some ERA grantees are poster children for SAGE's recruitment success. Janet Lord, an immunologist at the University of Birmingham, was new to aging research when she received a SAGE grant. Now she's developed new research objectives in order to qualify for ERA funding. For SAGE, she studied the aged immune system's reduced capacity to gobble up bacteria, but for ERA she will examine whether changes in certain hormone concentrations decrease immune response in the elderly. "A vast number of people who got funding from SAGE are now fairly committed to aging research," says Lord. "Before, the aging community in England was quite tiny. Now there's a nice little nucleus." Like SAGE, ERA will strengthen the sense of community by holding annual meetings where grantees can share their research and network with others.

ERA's success will be measured by the grantees' ability to obtain outside funding for future projects. Three years from now, when most ERA grants run out, the BBSRC will decide whether the United Kingdom's militia on aging covers the full range of the field. If not, it will look for new foot soldiers once again.

--Katharine Miller

Further Reading

Current BBSRC Funded Ageing Research

Citation: K. Miller, Researchers Join Up: British initiative draws new talent to research on aging (Research funding). Science's SAGE KE (19 December 2001),;2001/12/nw44

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