Introducing IOA Divisions

Introducing IOA Divisions

With the recent leadership transition, the IOA has the opportunity to refresh its organizational structure. In alignment with its mission to improve the health of older adults by increasing the quality and quantity of clinical and basic research as well as educational programs focusing on normal aging and aging-related diseases across the entire Penn campus, the IOA will focus its efforts in four main areas, or IOA Divisions.

Each division is led by members of the Penn faculty with expertise in their designated division who will serve liaisons for potential collaboration within the organization and help shape future IOA initiatives. 


Division of Basic Neurodegenerative Disease Research

This division focuses on basic, mechanistic research into the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (frontotemporal degeneration, dementia with Lewy bodies), movement disorders, and motor neuron diseases.  The key strengths and focus of this division have been in biochemistry, genetics, and pathology.

Division LeaderEdward B. Lee, MD, PhD

Edward (Eddie) B. Lee, MD, PhD is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Co-Director of the Penn Institute on Aging, and Associate Director of the Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.  He is also a practicing neuropathologist in the illustrious Division of Neuropathology.

Dr. Lee’s research involves using of advanced molecular, biochemical and histologic techniques to analyze brain tissue in study the molecular pathways associated with neuropathologic inclusions in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Trauma-Related Neurodegeneration.  He is the leader of the neuropathology cores of the Penn ADRC, the Penn FTDC, the Penn U19 Center on alpha-synuclein strains in ADRD, and the multi-institutional, international CONNECT-TBI consortium.

“My goal is to bring together world-class scientists by promoting the cross fertilization of diverse ideas, fostering successful collaborations, and recruiting the most promising trainees and faculty to the University of Pennsylvania in order to discover the causes and cures of aging-related neurodegenerative diseases.”

– Eddie Lee, MD, PhD

Division of Clinical and Translational Neurodegenerative Disease Research

This division focuses on translational and clinical research on neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (frontotemporal degeneration, dementia with Lewy bodies), movement disorders, and motor neuron diseases.  The key strengths and focus of this division include biomarker development and validation (biofluid, neuroimaging, multimodal integration), studies on the structure and function of the aging brain (neuropsychology, clinical outcomes, neuroimaging), and the development of care models.  This division encourages an emphasis on translating basic research into clinical trials and practice.

Division LeaderDavid A. Wolk, MD

Dr. David Wolk is a Professor of Neurology in the Cognitive Neurology Division of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He is also the Director of the Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Penn ADRC), Co-director of the Institute on Aging, and Co-director of the Penn Memory Center. 

Dr. Wolk’s research has focused on the cognitive neuroscience of memory decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s Disease using techniques including behavioral testing, structural and functional MRI, and FDG and molecular PET imaging. Much of this work is also directed at examining biomarkers, including behavioral and neuroimaging, that differentiate healthy aging from the earliest transition to AD and their potential role in understanding disease mechanisms and incorporation into treatment trials.

“The IOA has played a key role in my and many other careers at Penn by providing a forum for exchange of ideas, opportunities to present data and meet outside investigators, and recruitment of collaborative faculty. I would like the IOA to continue to serve as a milieu and forum for supporting the broad study of aging at Penn and to integrate and leverage the various lenses in which aging and age-related diseases are studied to promote healthier and happier aging.”

– David A. Wolk, MD

Division of Geroscience, Gerontology, and Geriatrics

This division focuses on basic, translational, and clinical research on human aging including basic molecular alterations (telomere biology, epigenetics, metabolism) and clinical phenotypes (frailty, integrated care models, metabolism).

Division LeadersF. Bradley (Brad) Johnson, MD, PhD, and Anne Cappola, MD, ScM

Brad Johnson, MD, PhD is a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Assistant Director of the Immunology and HLA Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on the basic biology of human aging and cancer, with an emphasis on how they are influenced by telomere maintenance and dysfunction. Currently, his lab is investigating roles for telomeres in diseases of the intestine, lung and liver.  Their broad goals are to better understand and treat telomere-driven diseases in individuals with inherited genetic deficiencies in telomere maintenance as well as in the elderly.

“Penn has deep yet diverse strengths spanning studies into the fundamental causes of aging to investigations of the nature of the many diseases for which aging puts people at a dramatically elevated risk.  I hope to help continue the IOA’s past successes of fostering collaboration among investigators across this spectrum to enhance human wellbeing into old age.”

– Brad Johnson, MD, PhD

Anne Cappola, MD, ScM is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism; Director of the Penn Medical Communication Research Institute (PMCRI). She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and a member of the External Advisory Committee for Clinician-Scientists Transdisciplinary Aging Research (ClinSTAR).

Dr. Cappola leads an NIH-funded program focusing on the hormonal alterations that occur with aging and the clinical impact of these changes. Current projects include studies defining cutoffs for thyroid dysfunction in older men and women; the role of thyroid hormone treatment in cardiovascular disease, hormonal treatments for the frailty syndrome; and metabolic changes in men and women who sustain a hip fracture.

“Geroscience weaves together the basic and clinical science in aging, working together to study the underpinnings of chronic disease, frailty, and resilience. The IOA is the home for investigators performing research across these areas.”

– Anne Cappola, MD, ScM

Division of Epidemiology, Social Science, and Policy

This division focuses on social, ethical, and legal scholarship in addition to population science and epidemiology as it relates to neurodegenerative diseases and aging.  These include research on understudied populations (global, underrepresented), the social impact of aging-related diseases, ethical and health economics considerations in aging and neurodegenerative disease and their interface with policy and legal frameworks.

Division Leader: Norma Coe, PhD

Norma B. Coe, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is an economist whose research focuses on identifying causal effects of policies that directly and indirectly impact health, human behavior, health care access, and health care utilization.

Dr. Coe is the Director of the Policy and Economics of Disability, Aging, and Long Term Care (PEDAL) lab and Co-Director of the Population Aging Research Center (PARC). In her research, Dr. Coe merges the rigor of economic thinking and empirical analysis with the practical health services skills of measurement and knowledge of the health policy context to answer pressing questions for policymakers and other stakeholders on how we can improve aging in America.

“I look forward to helping to make connections between the social scientists and the bench scientists studying aging. Bench science discoveries are pushing the social sciences forward, such as studying the socioeconomic gradient in epigenetic clocks to help identify the social factors that contribute to biologic measures of aging. And we are only touching the tip of the iceberg.”

– Norma B. Coe, PhD


The new IOA Members program is open to all Penn faculty with research interests in aging and/or neurodegenerative disease.  

Benefits of IOA Membership:

  • Potential funding of IOA Post-doctoral fellows
  • Potential funding of IOA PennPREP Scholar(s)
  • Identification of potential invited speakers to present at the IOA Seminar Series
  • Priority for scheduled meetings with IOA Seminar Series speakers
  • Trainees eligible to present at IOA-sponsored trainee seminars
  • Trainees eligible to attend IOA-sponsored career development activities
  • Participate in shaping the future of aging research at Penn

Each IOA Member must identify with at least one of the four IOA Divisions.

Sign up for the IOA Members program and select your division(s) here.


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