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Aging

Ex-Greenhouse chief to study supercentenarians

12 years ago

808  0
Posted on Oct 09, 2006, 7 a.m. By Bill Freeman

After leaving the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse at the end of November, former CEO Doros Platika will embark on a new role: helping to get funding to study the world's oldest people. Platika will be chairman of the Supercentenarian Research Foundation, a new organization designed to pump funding into studies that look at why supercentenarians, or people who have lived more than 110 years, have survived as long as they have.

After leaving the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse at the end of November, former CEO Doros Platika will embark on a new role: helping to get funding to study the world's oldest people.

Platika will be chairman of the Supercentenarian Research Foundation, a new organization designed to pump funding into studies that look at why supercentenarians, or people who have lived more than 110 years, have survived as long as they have. "Globally, we are going to have to deal with aging," Platika said. "I am a believer that the fountain of youth is in our genes. Our interaction with the environment will determine how long we live."

The foundation's goals are two-fold: to help improve quality of life for aging individuals and to try to emulate their successful longevity. The foundation will provide funding for research designed to identify the most important factors in helping supercentenarians avoid getting common diseases that kill most people at a younger age.

"Those who are approaching the maximum lifespan can provide us with some important information about aging," said Stanley Primmer, president of the new foundation. "Why are they able to live longer than everybody else? Why don't they live longer than they do? The funds for research will help answer these questions."

No one knows for certain how many supercentenarians there are globally. According to Primmer, estimates range from 300 to 400, but only 77 have been identified currently. (The number also changes constantly because someone who is 110 has just a 50 percent chance of surviving until 111.)

Platika and Primmer will be two of four founding board members for the foundation, which will be based in Pittsburgh. The others are Stephen Coles from the University of California Los Angeles and David Gobel, president of the Methuselah Foundation in Virginia.

To get it up and running, the foundation's leaders have raised $200,000 from private sources. Platika hopes next to raise a few million dollars to create a directory of people older than 110. He then hopes to raise more than $100 million for longevity studies at major academic medical centers.

Primmer added that Platika's experience as president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Centagenetix, which studied the genetics of centenarians, will be an asset.

"Doros has wide experience," he said. "He's an M.D. He's been involved in for-profit corporations. He's done basic research himself. He's done non-profit foundations. He's worn all the hats."

The foundation is not the first aging initiative in the Pittsburgh region, which is second only to the Miami region in the percentage of residents 65 and older.

In July, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh were awarded $15 million from the National Science Foundation to establish an engineering research center that will develop technologies to help aging adults have a higher quality of life. And the National Institute on Aging also is conducting a study that examines long-lived families and their secrets to a healthy life, which has one study center based at Pitt.

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