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Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. Make $1.25M Donation to J. Craig Venter Institute for New Study to Identify and Elucidate Healthy Aging Biomarkers
Date:8/28/2013

ROCKVILLE, Md. and LA JOLLA, Calif., Aug. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, today announced that the Ruggles Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr. have made a $1.25 million donation to JCVI to identify and study biomarkers associated with healthy aging. As part of the four year grant, JCVI will collaborate with the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN), located in Danbury, CT.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other "omics" profiles and integrating these data with the individuals' health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions.  The team will then compare the microbiome and molecular profiles of the healthy aging group with those of the non-healthy aging group to identify biomarker candidates. The investigators hope that in the future these data can be used to develop cost-effective, clinically relevant tests.

"As traditional modes of funding for science become less and less plentiful, the need for informed and supportive philanthropic donors is more important than ever. We are grateful for the support of Rudy and Sara and the Ruggles Family Foundation as this will enable us to better understand what healthy aging looks like at the genomic level," said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., JCVI Founder and CEO.  

"The time is right for pursuing the complex question of healthy aging given the rapid advances in analytical technologies and the expanding knowledge of the human genome and microbiome and their interactions.  JCVI's capabilities in this realm are unparalleled, and I am confident that this ground breaking study will expand materially the horizons of this area of fundamental understanding," said Rudy Ruggles, a physicist and Adjunct Professor at JCVI, who is a healthy 74 years old and a participant in this study. He is also Chairman of the Research Advisory Council of WCHN's Biomedical Research Institute.

According to a United Nations report, in 1950 there were 205 million people worldwide aged 60 or older. By 2000 there were 606 million aged 60 or older, and they project that by 2050 this figure will reach nearly 2 billion people who are 60 or older. Understanding the elderly patient and figuring out modes of intervention to better prevent and treat disease associated with aging will continue to be an important area of research.

In addition to more comprehensively studied human genetic factors, other areas of human health and biology that influence and define healthy aging in humans are emerging. For example, a healthy microbiome (the full complement of microbes that live on and in the human body) interacts with the human immune system establishing protective activities when necessary. Low-grade chronic inflammation in humans is a risk factor for the development of more serious diseases that reduce life spans. New tools and technologies developed since the first sequencing of the human and other genomes are now allowing researchers to explore the human body in more detail than ever before, including identifying biological signatures (biomarkers) indicative and even predictive of healthy aging.

According to JCVI President Karen Nelson, Ph.D., "JCVI's extensive knowledge in human genomics, comparative genomics and the human microbiome, coupled with the clinical expertise of WCHN, should result in new insights into healthy aging. We are excited to add this new study to our repertoire of ongoing human microbiome studies as it will enhance our knowledge in this important area of research."

For more information on how to support the genomics research programs at JCVI, contact Katie Collins, 858-200-1847.

About J. Craig Venter Institute

The JCVI is a not-for-profit research institute in Rockville, MD and San Diego, CA dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and communication of those results to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., the JCVI is home to approximately 250 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. The legacy organizations of the JCVI are: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), the Joint Technology Center (JTC), and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. The JCVI is a 501 (c)(3) organization. For additional information, please visit http://www.JCVI.org.

About The Ruggles Family Foundation

The Ruggles Family Foundation focuses its attention primarily on organizations that probe new frontiers of biomedical knowledge, from research into cancer biomarkers to the biodiversity found in tropical rain forests.  Other funding has been directed to institutional issues such as considerations surrounding the role of the armed forces in statecraft and nation-building.

About Western Connecticut Health Network

WCHN is the region's premier patient-centered system of care, dedicated to improving health and well-being in western CT and adjacent areas of NY.  The current organization was formed in 2010 from the joining of Danbury Hospital and New Millford Hospital. It is a teaching hospital and also the home of the WCHN Biomedical Research Institute.  This Institute is conducting ground-breaking research in the area of tumor biology and the development of cancer biomarkers using genomic and proteomic technologies in the hands of world-class scientists. More information is available on http://www.wchn.org/.

Media Contact: 

Heather Kowalski for JCVI  
301-943-8879; hkowalski@jcvi.org


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SOURCE J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI)
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