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Renowned Researcher Roy G. Smith to Head New Department of Metabolism and Aging at Scripps Florida

JUPITER, FL, December 19, 2008—The Scripps Research Institute has appointed Roy G. Smith, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert on research designed to intervene in the process of age-dependent physical and cognitive decline, as chair of its new Department of Metabolism and Aging. Professor Smith's laboratory and team will be located on the campus of Scripps Florida, in Jupiter.

Before arriving at Scripps Florida, Smith served for a decade as director of Baylor College of Medicine's Huffington Center on Aging and professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Department of Medicine in the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Prior to that, he was a vice president for basic research at Merck Research Laboratories, where he was instrumental in identifying new drug targets and therapies for metabolic diseases and for improving quality of life of the elderly.

"We are thrilled that Roy Smith has decided to join the faculty at Scripps Florida," said Scripps Research President Richard A. Lerner, M.D. "His pioneering research in the field of aging is well known, as is his active interest in educating both the public and the medical profession about the critical issues facing our aging society. That a scientist of his stature would choose Scripps Florida is further validation of the high caliber of its work."

Smith, 65, officially joined The Scripps Research Institute's faculty this summer and moves into his new labs this month on the Scripps Florida campus.

"In many respects, Scripps Florida represents the future of biomedical research," Smith said. "I'm very excited by this opportunity to build a new department as part of this unique science campus with a focus on translational research—taking discoveries in basic science and carrying them through to the clinic. Not only will we have the capability to develop biological tools to help understand mechanisms of diseases that will lead to the development of new drugs, we also will have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with Scripps Research scientists at the La Jolla campus. It's an unbeatable combination."

Smith has already begun recruiting scientists for his department. 

"Initially, there will be 12 principal investigators with a total of between 100 and 120 personnel in the department," Smith said. "Our focus will be on metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, as well as prevention of age-dependent functional decline caused by sarcopenia, osteoarthritis, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases."

Smith is best known for his cutting-edge work on the development of synthetic small molecules that rejuvenate the growth hormone axis in elderly subjects. He was the first to identify the receptor for these molecules and to characterize this previously unknown physiological pathway. Mounting scientific evidence now suggests that these growth hormone secretagogues may represent the biological equivalent of what some have called a "molecular fountain of youth," affecting parameters such as muscle mass, skin texture, immune function, and memory. Smith is particularly interested in the direct effects of these small molecules on neurons in the brain that control memory and learning.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Scripps Florida is currently in the process of moving from temporary facilities to its permanent campus in Jupiter, Florida. Dedication ceremonies for the new campus will be held in February 2009.


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