Prof Thomas von Zglinicki, Scientific Director, NUIA

After a life-long career in biology of ageing it is very comforting to see that finally interventions that can actually prolong healthy life are becoming ready to be tested in humans. These are extraordinarily exciting times with enormous societal potential for fundamental and translational ageing biology. Europe still suffers from serious lack of capacity in this area; the European goal of increasing healthy life expectancy by two years will not be achievable without a significant and immediate increase in critical mass in research in this specific field. Given this, I am extremely delighted to support the development of a novel research institute for ageing in Europe and its integration into the international and European collaborative networks. When founded in 1999, the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing was the worlds’ first institution to perform the whole range of ageing and ageing-related research based on a proper and strong mechanistic foundation. This concept has been an example for numerous centres funded since, including Groningen and the Mayo Clinic ageing research institutes. We are delighted that it also provides the template for the newest development, MIA-Portugal.

We have already made significant progress during phase 1 in developing the concept of MIA-Portugal by adapting our experiences to the specific conditions in Coimbra (an interesting experience for us was to see that innovation and TT support structures are actually better developed in Coimbra than in Newcastle, and we have started to work on the translation of the good examples), in integrating UC and the nascent MIA-Portugal into international research networks (the participation of one session chair, three invited speakers, and four posters presenters from Coimbra in the leading international conference on translational ageing biology was a big success) and in improving advanced teaching in ageing biology. Collaborative research projects have begun including exchanges of postgraduate students. All this will now continue at a higher level such that we will share responsibility for the scientific development of MIA-Portugal (mainly via our leading role in the IAB), develop a formal dual postgraduate programme and long-term collaborative research projects that for both partners enable access to research sources (patient cohorts, technologies and concepts) that are not available on the other side, increase the mobility of graduate students and post-docs and create synergies to combined creativities.

  Thomas von Zglinicki



 Prof. Folkert Kuipers, past-Dean, UMCG

Evidence is increasingly tying fundamental aging processes to the genesis of the major chronic diseases that account for the majority of morbidity, mortality, and health costs in developing and developed countries. These age-related chronic disorders include atherosclerosis, dementias, most cancers, diabetes, arthritis, blindness, and many others. By targeting basic aging processes, it could be feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate, or even cure these common chronic diseases as a group instead of one at a time, as well as the geriatric syndromes (frailty, sarcopenia, cognitive impairment, etc.) and age-related loss of resilience. Drugs and other interventions have recently been discovered that target basic aging processes. In a growing number of studies, these interventions not only enhance lifespan and healthspan in animals, they also appear to delay age-related chronic diseases and disabilities. If these interventions can be translated into clinical application, they could transform healthcare and even society as we know it. Funding for research in this area is far lower than reasonable given the potential benefits should this approach be successful.
Therefore, the MIA project is of utmost importance to the UMCG, that has adopted “Healthy Ageing” as a leading theme in all its activities in care, education and research already in 2006. MIA constitutes an excellent type of partnership, with strong commitment both on the executive level as well as on the level of individual researchers and educators. As a result, the UMCG has invited MIA/ UC already to act as partner in two EU proposals in the field of ageing research to further stimulate the cooperation. Vice versa, the UMCG has been invited three times to join MIA/UC coordinated grant applications. The leadership of the UMCG is confident that MIA can develop into a leading South European institutes in the field of ageing research and, consequently, into a strong partner for UMCG to fulfil its ambitions with respect to active and healthy ageing for all citizens. There is no other South European university apart from UC that is so committed to ageing research and the South European perspectives on ageing are not yet shared in the EU ageing research community. The local environment in Coimbra is excellent for this purpose, including a large Neuroscience institute and Biomedical research faculty. The UMCG has appointed two dedicated staff members to work intensively on establishing the cooperation between the two institutes and several other staff members have been consulting the colleagues in Coimbra with the building, the research program, the lab facilities, management, EU funding strategy etc. during the past year. In 2015 already, together with the Mayo Clinic, Newcastle University and UMCG, MIA/ UC co-organized the Alliance for Healthy Ageing meeting; a large conference dedicated to translational ageing research. The UMCG intends to initiate a Sandwich PhD program with the University of Coimbra in the field of ageing research. A Sandwich PhD program consists of 2 years of education/training in both participating institutes based on a jointly written research proposal by supervisors from both partners. This is a very successful program at UMCG and provides an excellent opportunity to foster the collaboration in ageing research with the University of Coimbra.

  Folkert Kuipers