Professor Brian K. Kennedy, an internationally renowned expert in ageing, has been appointed to lead ongoing efforts at the National University of Singapore (NUS) to understand the human ageing process and how to extend the period of healthy life or healthspan. His appointment as a Distinguished Professor in the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine’s Departments of Biochemistry and Physiology, and Director of the Centre for Healthy Ageing at the National University Health System (NUHS), will boost pre-clinical and clinical ageing studies.
Prof Kennedy was the President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California from 2010 to 2016. During his PhD studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he became interested in ageing and performed research leading to the identification of Sirtuins as modulators of ageing. He became a faculty member at the University of Washington and continued ageing research, playing a major role in the identification of the mTOR pathway as a central one in the ageing process. Since 2016, Prof Kennedy has been contributing to the development of research in ageing in Singapore. In January 2017, he further strengthened his commitment by assuming an appointment as Visiting Parkway Pantai Professor in Medicine and Healthy Ageing at NUS Medicine, before taking on the appointment as Distinguished Professor.
The focus on understanding the unique biology of human ageing in Singapore is driven by the dramatic demographic shifts in the Singapore population, which is getting older at rates nearly unparalleled in the world. Ageing is recognised as the biggest risk factor for a wide range of chronic diseases that are increasing healthcare costs and impairing life quality in elderly people. By understanding ageing and developing clinical interventions, it may be possible to extend human healthspan, the disease-free and functional part of life. Much thought and investment have been expended on efforts to improve the physical and social environment for the elderly in Singapore, though biomedical approaches leveraging on the latest scientific understanding of ageing have yet to be fully applied locally.
“Singapore has a unique opportunity to become a leader in research on human ageing, particularly its clinical application,” said Prof Kennedy. “It is already possible to extend lifespan and healthspan in animal models and the time has come for human testing. With its ageing population and, importantly, its progressive approach to develop the best and most efficient healthcare system, Singapore is poised to take the lead in human ageing studies. My goal is to work with the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine to help Singaporeans extend their healthspan – to live healthily for as long as possible.”
In this regard, Prof Kennedy will be developing pre-clinical and clinical ageing programmes for the NUHS, of which the School is a founding institutional member. He will also develop his own research programme, which seeks to identify the fundamental mechanisms driving ageing, while maintaining his research team at the Buck Institute in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the appointment, the Centre for Healthy Ageing at the National University Health System (NUHS) is collaborating with the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Einstein) to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration as they seek to combat the ravages of ageing, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 10 July 2017.
The NUHS Centre for Healthy Ageing is committed to finding strategies to keep the Singapore population healthy, longer. Investigators at the Institute for Aging Research at Einstein and NUS Medicine will participate in joint meetings and training programmes and also share experimental strategies and outcomes for key clinical studies.
“The Institute for Aging Research at Einstein is a global leader in the effort to understand and delay human ageing. By working closely together, we can accelerate our collective efforts to improve life quality with ageing and offset the biggest medical challenge of this century,” stated Prof Kennedy.