Ellison Medical Foundation moving beyond aging medical research

Fightaging reports that the Ellison Medical Foundation will no longer fund aging research. For the past fifteen years or so the Ellison Medical Foundation has acted much like an extension of the National Institute on Aging, channeling philanthropic funding from Larry Ellison into investigations of the biology of aging. This has been mainstream work with little to no involvement in efforts to extend life. The Ellison Medical Foundation didn’t come about because Larry Ellison has any great interest in aging research, however: the interest was in furthering molecular biology, and the study of aging just happens to be a field in which a lot of cutting edge molecular biology takes place.

Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison’s medical foundation — one of the leading funders for research on aging over the past 15 years — has stopped making new grants and may shift its focus beyond medical research.

The move by the New York-based Ellison Medical Foundation comes as researchers face a financial crunch and as the Google Inc.-backed aging research company Calico ramps up.

The August decision by the foundation’s three-member board, which is chaired by Ellison, came as a shock to researchers who have depended on the foundation’s four-year awards as National Institutes of Health funding has stayed flat. The timing is even more surprising given that the foundation only last year made its first grant awards to neuroscientists, including the University of California, San Francisco’s Nirao Shah, who is studying the molecular and neural control of aggression.

In all, the Ellison Medical Foundation has awarded nearly $430 million in grants since its founding in late 1997. Perhaps 80 percent to 90 percent of that money went to aging researchers, said Executive Director Kevin Lee, including those at Stanford University, UC Berkeley and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato.

The foundation is not endowed by Ellison. Instead, Lee said, Ellison varies his annual gift to the foundation, which this year will fund $53 million in new and continuing grants.

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