Coveted K-99 Award Goes to Scientist in Campisi Lab

Remi Laberge, PhD, and mouse

Remi-Martin Laberge, PhD, a postdoc in the Campisi lab, was recently awarded a five-year $1 million K-99 grant from the National Institute for Aging. These highly competitive awards, which provide federal funding for scientists to move from being in a lab to running their own lab as a full-fledged faculty member, only go to the most promising postdoctoral fellows.

For starters, the award gives Laberge two years of funding to complete his project, which is focused on inflammation. “Inflamm-aging” is a hot research topic these days; it’s a process implicated in a majority of age-related diseases. Laberge, who hails from Montreal, is studying downstream molecular activity involving the nutrient-sensing pathway TOR (target of rapamycin). In particular, he is looking at an enzyme called S6K2. Laberge thinks there’s a good chance that reducing the activity of S6K2 will extend health and lifespan in aging mice by quelling senescence, a process that releases inflammatory factors when cells stop dividing. The ultimate goal is to develop treatments that extend healthspan in humans.

There were many congratulatory back slaps and emails for Laberge on the day he received the award. He says this funding will fuel more collaborations with his colleagues here at the Buck. “Our collaborative environment makes the Buck Institute a unique and valuable place to do research,” he said. “I received a perfect score for the host institution section of my grant application, so that means there is a little bit of everyone at the Buck in this award.”

In addition to finishing his project, Laberge will also begin the process of job hunting. His award includes funding for up to three years of research when he becomes a faculty member at a U.S. institution. With overall cuts in federal funding, his award should give him a huge advantage in a tough job market.

Laberge’s award also highlights the superb mentorship provided by Buck faculty Judith Campisi, PhD, who is known internationally for her research on aging, cancer and senescence. Michael Velarde, another postdoc in the Campisi lab, is finishing up work on a K-99 grant he received in 2012. It is very unusual for two people from the same lab to receive K-99’s within such a tight timeframe.

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