University of Buffalo receives NIH perfect score and grant for its aging center

Nov. 7, 2019

A rare, perfect score has been awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to a University of Buffalo (UB) faculty member who is leading a center designed to enhance care for older adults throughout Western New York.

Bruce R. Troen, professor of medicine and chief of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and a physician with UBMD Internal Medicine, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Institute of Aging of the NIH. The grant will allow Troen to focus his time on building the UB Center for Successful Aging and develop research and training programs in geriatrics. The Jacobs School and the Department of Medicine have made a commitment to match these funds during the five years of the grant.

“My mission since I came here in 2013 has been to help develop and foster a scholarly environment to enhance discovery in aging-related fields and optimize clinical care for older adults,” Troen said.

Troen’s proposal was deemed “exceptional” by NIH reviewers, resulting in an impact score of 10, the highest score possible. Reviewers cited Troen’s strong leadership and clear vision to expand the geriatrics focus at UB, as well as his commitment to mentoring junior faculty and the support he has secured from UB.  The award focuses on a relatively new subfield of geriatrics called geroscience, which is the study of the biological mechanisms of aging that result in disease and disability.

Troen is among few physician-scientists in the U.S. with a background that spans from benchtop science on the basic molecular biology of aging to delivering clinical care to geriatric patients at the bedside and in the community. One of his most impactful research projects exemplifies that translational focus. After a lab animal study he and a colleague published in 2017 demonstrated for the first time that a novel, short-session regimen of high-intensity interval training can be safe and effective in older populations, he sought funding to determine if the finding could be replicated in humans. Last fall, Troen and his research team secured funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to do just that, with preliminary results anticipated by next spring.

According to Troen, while the percentage of the national population that is 65 and older is 15%, in Erie County it’s almost 18%. And he notes that by 2030, that population will make up 20% nationally, whereas some estimates have predicted that figure will be reached by 2025 in Erie County.

“My goal is to do something new for Western New York, create a discovery environment for geroscience and a new curriculum that cuts across boundaries,” he says.

The grant specifically funds efforts to develop a new geroscience curriculum, recruit and mentor diverse trainees and junior faculty in the field, and establish teams comprised of researchers in the Center for Successful Aging and those within UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute in order to fully realize the grant’s translational potential.

In addition to his UB and UBMD appointments, Troen is a physician-investigator with the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System and director of geriatrics services at Erie County Medical Center. He is also director of UB’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease in Western New York, and an investigator on SNAP, the SUNY Network Aging Partnership: Investigating Frailty and Enhancing Lifespan Across the Health Spectrum, both funded by New York State.

UB has the story.