Buck Institute for Research on Aging

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Buck Institute for Research on Aging
Logo of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.png
Established 30 Sep 1999
President Brian K. Kennedy
Budget $37 million
Formerly called Buck Institute for Age Research

Novato, California, USA

(38.133939°N 122.570432°W)
Address 8001 Redwood Blvd.
Novato, CA 94945-1400
Website thebuck.org

The Buck Institute for Research on Aging[1] is the United States' first independent biomedical research institute devoted solely to research on aging and age-related disease. The mission of the Buck Institute is to extend the healthspan, the healthy years of life.

The Institute, a nonprofit organization located in Novato, California, began its research program in 1999. It is named for Marin County philanthropists Leonard and Beryl Hamilton Buck, whose estate funded the generous endowment that helped establish the Institute, and the Buck Trust currently contributes approximately $6 million annually to support the Institute's work. In May 2007, the Institute established a cooperative agreement with the University of California's Davis and Merced campuses to coordinate stem-cell research, a move hailed by UC as a collaboration that "strengthens California's leadership in stem cell research and moves it forward in an efficient, safe and cost-effective manner."[2]

The campus of the Buck Institute was designed by architect I. M. Pei, who submitted an unsolicited proposal to design the research facility.[3] [4]


Aging is the largest risk factor for disease in developed countries. The Institute's 250+ researchers work together across disciplines to understand the aging process and its link to chronic disease. Buck Institute scientists have authored more than 660 scholarly papers for scientific journals since its opening in 1999.[5] Their research is published in peer-reviewed journals, including Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Neuron, and Cell. Collectively, their investigators have achieved one of the highest grant approval rates at the NIH of any research organization in the United States.

The Buck Institute’s Interdisciplinary Research Consortium on Geroscience is an example of its approach to tackling a complex biomedical problem that is unlikely to yield to traditional investigative techniques. Funded by a “Roadmap” Grant from the National Institutes of Health,[6] the field of geroscience includes Alzheimer’s disease research, biochemistry, bioenergetics, cancer biology, cell biology, chemical biology, endocrinology, genomic stability, human embryonic stem cells, Huntington’s disease research, invertebrate aging, ischemia (stroke), molecular epidemiology, molecular genetics, nutrition, Parkinson’s disease research, and statistics. Additional researchers are from the fields of anthropology, engineering, and mathematics, and physics (many of whom may have no background in Geroscience and may not initially think of themselves as researchers in this new field). The principal investigator and director of the Consortium on Geroscience is Gordon J. Lithgow.

The Buck Institute's program in Regenerative Medicine and Aging focuses on three questions:

  1. why do aging tissues lose their capacity to regenerate ?
  2. why do stem cells fail to function as one gets older ? and
  3. how do tissues change during aging such that they no longer support normal regenerative processes?

Interdisciplinary research at the Buck Institute is supported by "technology cores" which include genomics, proteomics and mass spectrometry, morphology, transgenics, and bioinformatics.

The Buck Institute is one of seven organizations that comprise The Glenn Foundation for Research in Aging.[7] Founded in 1965 by Paul F. Glenn, the focus of the Glenn Foundation is to extend the healthy productive years of life through research on the mechanisms of biological aging.


The Buck Foundation Trust was created by Beryl Hamilton Buck after the death in 1953 of her husband, pathologist Leonard W. Buck. Leonard's father, Frank Buck, was one of the founders of Belridge Oil. When Beryl Buck passed away in 1975, the bulk of the estate became part of the San Francisco Foundation, about $7.6 million dedicated to “charitable purposes in Marin County” including, in her words, “extending help to the problems of aging.” The Belridge Oil stock in the trust was bought in 1979 by Shell Oil for $253 million, increasing the trust's value substantially.[8] Attempts by the San Francisco Foundation to spend outside of Marin County resulted in litigation.[9]

As part of a 1986 court settlement, the Marin Community Foundation was established which administers the trust, today valued at approximately $1 billion.[10] The settlement distributes 80% of the trust’s annual earnings to causes specific to Marin County. It divides the remaining 20% among three Marin County organizations:

  • the Buck Institute for Research on Aging,
  • the Buck Institute for Education,[11] and
  • Alcohol Justice, formerly named The Marin Institute, which deals with alcohol-related problems.

Attorney Mary McEachron, instrumental in the 1986 settlement agreement, is now chief administrative officer and general counsel of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. In 1985, McEachron had helped convene a panel of experts to discuss the creation of a freestanding research institute focused on problems facing the aging population. In its final gathering, the panel challenged the new institute “to become the pre-eminent research institute on aging; establish for itself a national reputation; and contribute significantly to our (nation’s) ability to reduce disability and dependency in later life.”


Employees and financials[edit]

In 2013, the number of full-time employees was 272. 39% of its employees have PhD's or MD's; seven U.S. MD's are on staff. 22 different countries are represented in the employee base. Adding volunteers, students, visiting scientists and temporary employees, the Institute's workforce numbers 318.[12]

Its current president and CEO, Dr. Brian K. Kennedy, was appointed in July 2010. He succeeds the founding president and CEO, Dr. Dale Bredesen, who now heads the lab focused on Alzheimer's Disease research.[13]

The operating budget for FY 2013 is $37 million. About half of its support comes from peer-reviewed grants from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. Foundations and private donors contribute another 35% of the funding. An endowment from the Buck Trust Fund provides approximately 15 percent of the Institute's annual budget.[12]


The campus of the Buck Institute, as seen from Highway 101.

The Institute is on a 488-acre (1.97 km2; 0.76 sq mi) site located in the foothills of Mount Burdell, north of Novato, California. Of this, a 238-acre (0.96 km2; 0.37 sq mi) portion is dedicated to permanent agricultural use; another 70-acre (0.28 km2; 0.11 sq mi) portion is open public space. The landscaping complements existing oaks, bay trees, and grassland chaparral. The Institute shares its property with wild turkeys, deer, and mountain lions.

Architect I. M. Pei was so interested in the mission of the Institute that he unexpectedly responded in 1989 to a request to submit a proposal to design the research facility. Pei's master plan calls for 355,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of laboratory and facility space.[3] The multi-stage plan is for five linked buildings around a one-acre hexagonal courtyard, designed to provide a green oasis for quiet contemplation and outdoor activities. Pei used varied geometric elements and floating staircases, which appear throughout both the administrative and research buildings.

Construction commenced in 1996. The structure of the buildings is concrete and steel-framed. About 50,000 blocks of honey-colored travertine limestone were used to clad the exterior walls of the Institute and line the atrium space. Visitors enter through the Administration Building, where community outreach programs and the 227-seat Drexler Auditorium are located off a large skylit exhibition space. The atrium is accentuated by a 75 foot-high skylight (similar to the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, another Pei design). Laboratory modules are similarly organized around central atria, each interior space illuminated with natural light. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the atria offer vistas of the surrounding countryside.


Buck Institute conducts its research programs through twenty laboratories that focus on specific subjects:

Principal Investigator
Research area Reference
Anderson Lab
Julie K. Andersen, PhD
Parkinson's Disease: Understanding cell death in Parkinson's disease [14]
Benz Lab
Christopher C. Benz, MD
Breast Cancer: Understanding the link between aging and breast cancer in order to develop better treatments and prevention strategies [15]
Brand Lab
Martin Brand, MD
Cell Metabolism: Understanding how the energy metabolism of cells affects aging and disease [16]
Bredesen Lab
Dale E. Bredesen, MD
Alzheimer's Disease: Mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease and potential therapeutics [17][18]
Campisi Lab
Judith Campisi, PhD
Cancer: Understanding the relationship between aging and cancer [19][20]
Ellerby Lab
Lisa Ellerby, PhD
Huntington's Disease: Understanding the pathways that lead to nerve cell death in Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders [21]
Gibson Lab
Bradford W. Gibson, PhD
Chemistry and Biology: Understanding the biological and chemical processes that are common to both age-related diseases and aging [22]
Greenberg Lab
David Greenberg, MD, PhD
Stroke: Mechanisms to enhance brain repair following stroke [23]
Hughes Lab
Robert E. Hughes, PhD
Huntington's Disease: Understanding the mechanisms of aging and neurodegeneration in healthy adults and in people with disorders such as Huntington’s disease [24]
Jasper Lab
Heinrich Jasper, PhD
Stem Cells: Enhancing stem cell function to promote longevity [25]
Kapahi Lab
Pankaj Kapahi, PhD
Nutrition: Understanding the role of nutrition and energy metabolism in lifespan and disease [26]
Kennedy Lab
Brian K. Kennedy, PhD
Biology of Aging: Moving research in aging from simple organisms into mammals to improve human health [27][28]
Lamba Lab
Deepak A. Lamba, M.B.B.S., PhD
Stem Cells and Vision: Development of stem cell technologies for treating vision disorders [29]
Lithgow Lab
Gordon J. Lithgow, PhD
Proteins and Genes: Uncovering genes and small molecules that prolong lifespan through enhanced molecular stability [30][31]
Lunyak Lab
Victoria V. Lunyak, PhD
Epigenetics: Understanding the epigenetic principles of human adult stem cell aging [32]
Melov Lab
Simon L. Melov, PhD
Proteins and Free Radicals: Identifying molecular hallmarks of aging to guide the development of anti-aging therapies [33]
Mooney Lab
Sean D. Mooney, PhD
Bioinformatics: Using computers to enable the next generation of biomedical research [34]
Nicholls Lab
David G. Nicholls, PhD
Bioenergetics: Mitochondrial function and the life and death of cells [35]
Ramanathan Lab
Arvind Ramanathan, PhD
Musculoskeletal Regeneration: Molecular physiology of skeletal muscle regeneration, aging and the formation of tumors [36]
Zeng Lab
Xianmin Zeng, PhD
Parkinson's Disease and Stem Cells: Developing stem cell-based treatments for neurodegenerative disorders [37]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ On January 1, 2011, the name of the institute was changed from "Buck Institute for Age Research"
  2. ^ "UC Davis, UC Merced and Buck Institute: Cooperate to Meet Stem Cell Oversight Requirements". California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Retrieved 25 Apr 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Buck Institute for Age Research". Pei Cobb Freed and Partners. Retrieved 25 Apr 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Buck is Growing". Marin Magazine. Retrieved 25 Apr 2013. 
  5. ^ "The New Regenerative Medicine Research Building at the Buck Institute for Age Research Novato, California". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 25 Apr 2013. 
  6. ^ "Project Information, Project Number: 1UL1RR024917-01". NIH. Retrieved 26 Apr 2013. 
  7. ^ "Glenn Foundation for Medical Research". Retrieved 2013-04-30. 
  8. ^ Robert R. Augsburger, Victoria Chang, William F. Meehan III (1998-01-01). "The San Francisco Foundation: The Dilemma of the Buck Trust (A)". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  9. ^ Friedman, Lawrence Mier (2009). Dead Hands: a social history of wills, trusts, and inheritance law. Stanford University Press. pp. 159–160. ISBN 9780804760362. 
  10. ^ "About MCF". Marin Community Foundation. Retrieved 2013-04-30. 
  11. ^ "The BIE Story". Buck Institute for Education. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  12. ^ a b "News & Events, Quick Facts". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 25 Apr 2013. 
  13. ^ Davidson, Keay (2004-09-13). "Researchers discover 'Jekyll and Hyde' cancer gene / Amount of a specific protein determines whether a tumor is created or suppressed". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  14. ^ "Anderson Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  15. ^ "Benz Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  16. ^ "Brand Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  17. ^ "Bredesen Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  18. ^ Leuty, Ron (2007-08-19). "Executive Profile: Dale Bredesen". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  19. ^ "Campisi Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  20. ^ Wade, Nicholas (2011-11-02). "Purging Cells in Mice Is Found to Combat Aging Ills". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  21. ^ "Ellerby Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  22. ^ "Gibson Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  23. ^ "Greenberg Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  24. ^ "Hughes Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  25. ^ "Jasper Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  26. ^ "Kapahi Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  27. ^ "Kennedy Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  28. ^ Wade, Nicholas (2011-08-11). "Longer Lives for Obese Mice, With Hope for Humans of All Sizes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  29. ^ "Lamba Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  30. ^ "Lithgow Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  31. ^ Chang, Kenneth (2011-04-04). "Extending Worms’ Lives, and Maybe Ours". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  32. ^ "Lunyak Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  33. ^ "Melov Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  34. ^ "Mooney Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  35. ^ "Nicholls Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  36. ^ "Ramanathan Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  37. ^ "Zeng Lab". Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°08′02″N 122°34′14″W / 38.133939°N 122.570432°W / 38.133939; -122.570432