The Fourth Summit: Geroscience for the Next Generation

Gordon Lithgow

Gordon Lithgow is a Professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. He received his PhD in Genetics from the University of Glasgow, Scotland and briefly worked in biotechnology in Switzerland before becoming intrigued with the biology of aging. In 1991 he became a post-doctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Tom Johnson at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Johnson was the first scientist to discover a mutation in a gene Aage1) that increased the lifespan of the tiny nematode worm C. elegans.

In 1995 Lithgow moved to England to start his own lab and became a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Gerontology at the University of Manchester. In 2001 he and Buck faculty member Simon Melov published a groundbreaking paper in Science which detailed the first use of a drug-like molecule to extend lifespan in a living animal. He moved his lab to the Buck Institute shortly thereafter.

At the Buck, Lithgow became a chief advocate for capitalizing on the Institute’s commitment to interdisciplinary research. In 2007 he spearheaded and became the Principal Investigator for a $28 million grant from the federal government which established the Interdisciplinary Research Consortium on Geroscience. He is credited with coining the term “Geroscience” which is now used worldwide to describe research focused on the connection between aging and chronic disease.
At the Buck, the Lithgow lab utilizes molecular genetics and biochemistry to define aging processes and through extensive collaborations, they apply a range of leading-edge technologies to study protein homeostasis which declines with age. Protein misfolding is implicated in many age-related diseases; that discovery moved the lab’s focus from lifespan extension to efforts to understand drivers of healthspan and the causes of age-related pathology and chronic disease, in particular Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The lab has taken compounds discovered to extended lifespan and healthspan in the nematode C. elegans and translated them into mouse studies with a high frequency of success. Related studies have been published in high impact journals including Science and Nature.

Dr. Lithgow has been recognized for his research with a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging, a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Tenovus Award for Biomedical Research. He has served on many national advisory panels in both the United Kingdom and the United States, including the National Institute on Aging’s Board of Scientific Councilors, and has served as the chair of biological sciences at the Gerontological Society of America. He has partnered with a series of biotechnology companies in sponsored research agreements and has strong collaborations in preclinical aging research in diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis.