Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Aging leads the way in lifelong health research

As part of the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s strategic plan “Building the Future: 2021-2026,” the Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Aging was recognized in a strategic plan digital showcase as one of the many contributors who are helping to lead this important work. 

The Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Aging, the latest research centre in the Faculty of Medicine, is revolutionizing the study of aging by fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and establishing UBC as a global leader in healthy aging research. Contrary to the common perception that aging begins in middle age, Dr. Michael Kobor, a world-renowned biomedical researcher and the Edwin S.H. Leong UBC Chair in Healthy Aging – a UBC President’s Excellence Chair, emphasizes that aging is a lifelong journey starting from birth.

“Aging isn’t something that starts when we turn 40 or 50. It starts the moment we are born — and perhaps even before,” says Dr. Kobor. Understanding aging as a continuous process necessitates an interdisciplinary approach, encompassing diverse social, cultural, environmental, and genetic factors. The Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Aging embodies this ‘society to cell’ methodology, integrating expertise from various fields to comprehensively investigate aging.

Launched in the spring of 2023, the Centre owes its inception to a transformative donation from philanthropist and UBC alumnus Dr. Edwin S.H. Leong. It has quickly become a hub for healthy aging research, housing over 40 investigators and more than 30 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from 19 UBC departments. These experts span a range of disciplines, from molecular biology and neurobiology to geriatrics, occupational therapy, sociology, and nursing.

The Centre’s rapid growth is marked by its ability to attract esteemed faculty members from top research institutes worldwide. “In our first year, we’ve seen exceptional momentum, and it’s this diversity that will enable us to build capacity, advance research excellence, and develop novel strategies to tackle age-related diseases and help people stay healthy, happy, and active longer into old age,” says Dr. Kobor.

Central to the Centre’s mission is its alignment with the Faculty of Medicine’s vision to transform health for everyone. Dr. Kim Schmidt, the Centre’s Research Director, highlights the Centre’s community engagement initiatives, such as free public lectures on healthy aging in collaboration with Providence Health Care, as pivotal in translating knowledge into real-world impact. “What inspires me about what we’re doing here at the Centre is that we’re helping to create a future of healthy aging for everybody — and our collective efforts will help us achieve what none of us could do alone,” says Dr. Schmidt.

In addition to local initiatives, the Centre has established international collaborations with prestigious institutions like Stanford and Columbia universities. These partnerships not only broaden the Centre’s research reach but also create new opportunities for the next generation of researchers. Recent funding, including a $6.5 million grant from a Canadian-based charitable organization, further underscores the Centre’s role in positioning UBC as a world leader in aging research.

“UBC is well on its way to becoming a global leader in aging research and all of us here at the Centre are dedicated to continuing to advance Dr. Leong’s vision of enhancing the quality of life for older people, not just here in B.C., but in communities across Canada and around the world,” says Dr. Kobor.

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