UCSF Postdoc Geraldine Gontier Receives Award from AFAR

photo of Geraldine Gontier in Villeda lab

Geraldine Gontier, PhD, a postdoc in Dr. Saul Villeda's lab at UCSF, has been awarded a $120,000 Postdoctoral Transition Award in Aging. This award is made by the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), a leading non-profit organization dedicated to advancing biomedical research on aging, with support from the Irene Diamond Fund.

The goal of the award program is to provide portable and flexible transitional funding for senior postdoctoral fellows as they develop and negotiate for junior faculty appointments and independent research programs. Through the award, Dr. Gontier will research the role of Tet2 in regulating regenerative and cognitive rejuvenation in the aging brain.

“My project aims to prevent age-related cognitive decline by stimulating the production of new neurons in the old brain. I plan to do this by manipulating master regulators of gene expression in the old brain to reflect a more youthful state,” notes Dr. Gontier. “Reversing cognitive decline in the elderly can have huge implications for treatment of aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

The Irene Diamond Fund/AFAR Program distinguishes itself from other postdoctoral fellowship programs by providing full-time research training and flexible and portable grant support to senior postdoctoral fellows and providing leverage to negotiate for junior faculty appointments and independent research programs either at their own or other institutions. If the awardee successfully transitions to a tenure-track (or tenure-track equivalent) junior faculty position within two years, he or she may be eligible to receive an additional award of up to $30,000, to be used as start-up funds in the new position.

“By giving these postdoctoral fellows this extra boost at a critical moment in their career path, AFAR is helping create a research pipeline that is essential to advancing better therapies for age-related diseases and discoveries that will help us all live healthier, longer,” notes Jeremy Walston, MD, Chair of the 2017 Selection Committee for the Irene Diamond Fund/AFAR Postdoctoral Transition Awards in Aging.

This year, AFAR is awarding eight Postdoctoral Training Awards totaling $960,000 dollars. To date, AFAR has awarded more than $175 million in grants to support more than 4,400 investigators and students at more than 500 leading institutions across the U.S. as well as Ireland, Israel, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

As the world’s population over 65 years old is growing an unprecedented rate, AFAR’s support of solid age-related science is more critical than ever. Notes AFAR Executive Director Stephanie Lederman: “By supporting investigators dedicated to healthy aging for more than three decades, AFAR has witnessed how our grantees have transformed the core knowledge of how our bodies age and how age-related illnesses can be harnessed to extend health. We are confident that these Diamond/AFAR awardees will make a substantial impact on the field and ultimately all of our lives.”

The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research. Founded in 1981, AFAR has championed the cause and supported the funding of science in healthier aging and age-related medicine. To address the shortage of physicians and researchers dedicated to the science of healthier aging, AFAR funds physicians and scientists probing the fundamental mechanisms of aging, as well as specific diseases associated with aging populations at critical points throughout their careers. Learn more at www.afar.org or follow AFAR.org on Twitter and Facebook.