$2 Million Gift Establishes URMC Center for Aging and Developmental Biology

June 01, 1998

With a $2 million gift from the Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation and esteemed medical leadership, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has committed itself to establishing the nation's first world-class Center for Aging and Developmental Biology.

The Wolk gift will be used to recruit new faculty, provide state-of-the-art research laboratories, and undertake studies into the causes, cures and treatments of diseases of the elderly. As acknowledgement of the Wolk family's generosity, the main lobby/patient access center into the Medical Center will be christened, "The Wolk Pavilion," at a dedication ceremony on June 1, 1998.

Simultaneously, URMC announces the appointment of Howard Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., as director of the Center on Aging and Developmental Biology. Federoff, an internationally respected neurologist and endocrinologist, teacher and researcher, joined the URMC in May of 1995. He is a graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and completed his internship, residency and advanced fellowships in endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital of the Harvard Medical School.

Outstanding aging research already in progress at the University of Rochester Medical Center includes studies in muscle physiology, systems neurophysiology, heart disease, dentistry, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory disease and lung biology, and hematology and immunology. With the Center's enhanced focus, additional studies will be undertaken which help researchers better understand developmental and aging processes from a molecular genetic level.

Under Federoff's guidance, the Medical Center is recruiting 18 new renowned basic researchers and physicians to join the Center on Aging and Developmental Biology's faculty. These new faculty members will be supported by 36 research technicians and 20 postdoctoral fellows who will participate in the studies. One floor of the URMC's new research building, slated for completion in 1999, will be dedicated to this Center's research projects.

"It is our goal to establish the most comprehensive aging and developmental research program in the country - one that truly pushes the scientific frontiers and forms the basis for advancing how we provide care for the elderly, and ultimately improve their health and their lives," said Jay H. Stein, senior vice president and vice provost for Health Affairs at the University of Rochester. "This generous gift from the Wolk Foundation and the leadership selection of Howard Federoff evidence the forward momentum of this Medical Center."

The Louis S. and Molly B. Wolk Foundation is a Rochester-based, independent family foundation that supports the non-profit community through charitable gifts. The Wolk Foundation's primary focuses involve health care for the elderly, the needs of children as well as other community interests. Its trustees and executive staff include Leon Germanow as chair, Michael B. Berger, Pinny Cooke, Alvin L. Ureles, David M. Wolk, Marvin L. Wolk, and Harold Samloff.

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Background on Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D. Director of the Center on Aging and Developmental Biology University of Rochester Medical Center June 1, 1998 Internationally respected researcher Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., has been named director of the Center on Aging and Developmental Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. A noted neurologist and endocrinologist, teacher, and researcher, Federoff joined the University of Rochester Medical Center in May of 1995 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Federoff also serves as chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy, and professor of Neurology. As director of the newly established Center, Federoff will lead the effort to recruit researchers to complement the University's already impressive team of experts on Aging and Developmental Biology. "Howard's appointment is extremely well earned," said Jay H. Stein, M.D., senior vice president and vice provost for Health Affairs and CEO of the Medical Center. "His research has contributed greatly to our understanding of the aging process and how to make a significant difference in the quality of care for our growing elderly population." The Center for Aging and Development Biology will be comprised on small clusters of researchers with interests in aging and development within the neurosciences. With the new Center, the hope is that research will lead to better understanding and treatments of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and muscular dystrophies as well as conditions that accompany the normal aging process, such as memory loss and cognitive decline. "Through this new center, we have the opportunity to achieve national prominence," Federoff said. "We are building on a foundation that includes one of the best neurology departments in the nation. To be successful, we'll embrace the current Medical Center and University scientists and recruit other senior scientists and younger talent who are interested in collaboration." Federoff received his master's, doctoral and medical degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, before serving internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School. He is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Endocrinology and Metabolism, has nearly 60 scientific publications to his credit and currently has four patents pending. "His work provides a stellar model of how collaboration between disciplines can lead to discoveries we would not even have dreamed about only a decade ago," Stein said. "His appointment allows us to move forward aggressively in our recruitment and to add more opportunities for fruitful collaboration." Background on Research in Aging at the University of Rochester June 1, 1998 More than 80 researchers at the University of Rochester are currently studying diseases that affect the elderly. Among their most important findings: Alzheimer's Disease The most striking symptom of Alzheimer's Disease is memory loss. But among older people whose memory is failing, Alzheimer's Disease is the culprit in only about half of the cases. Other causes include Parkinson's disease or stroke. In the mid-1980s, researchers at the University of Rochester were the first to identify the physiologic changes that occur in the brain cells of patients with Alzheimer's Disease. Recently, they have taken this research an important step further: They have identified molecules that are products of the cellular changes that occur in Alzheimer's Disease. Those molecules - a tell-tale sign that Alzheimer's Disease is occurring in the brain - show up in cells throughout the body. The researchers have developed a technique for detecting the molecules, which may lead to the development of a blood test for Alzheimer's Disease. Such a blood test may be able to detect Alzheimer's in the very early stages - perhaps 20 years before memory loss occurs. Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of the cellular damage is also expected to help scientists develop methods to slow or halt the progression of the disease. Osteoporosis - a loss of bone density that often begins in middle age and worsens with age - puts elderly people at greater risk for fractures. Medical researchers have known that if they could interrupt the biological mechanisms that cause bone loss, they could prevent millions of older people from suffering debilitating injuries such as hip fractures. Researchers at the University of Rochester have made progress in understanding the biological mechanisms that cause us to lose bone. Their research may lead to the development of a medication that can slow or prevent bone loss. Respiratory Infections Common respiratory infections - which cause minor colds in young, healthy people - can become devastating illnesses in the elderly. In the first study of its kind in the nation, researchers at the University of Rochester have monitored a group of 500 elderly volunteers living throughout the Rochester area and identified all of the viruses that infected members of the group over a three-year period. The researchers are using the results of this landmark study to develop new strategies for the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections in the elderly. The research is being conducted through the Claude D. Pepper Center at the University of Rochester, one of only two federally funded centers in the United States for the study of aging.

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