News Release

Dr. Malene Hansen receives 2020 BIG Award

Hansen is the first scientist to receive grants in four different award categories offered by AFAR

Grant and Award Announcement

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Malene Hansen, Ph.D.

image: Malene Hansen, Ph.D., professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute view more 

Credit: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

Malene Hansen, Ph.D., has been awarded a three-year, $300,000 Breakthroughs in Gerontology (BIG) Award. The BIG Award is sponsored by The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research in collaboration with the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), and provides funding for research projects aimed at discoveries that address aging and health span. Hansen is a professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

"I'm honored to receive this prestigious award from the Glenn Medical Research Foundation and AFAR," says Hansen. "Aging is the single greatest risk factor for many chronic diseases. This grant bolsters our work to understand new ideas about the molecular basis of aging and how we can translate that knowledge to benefit human health."

With the support of the BIG Award, Hansen will examine new roles for select genes involved in autophagy--an important cellular recycling mechanism that influences the process of aging and life span. Her lab uses the small roundworm, C. elegans, as well as mammalian cell culture systems to unravel how evolutionarily conserved pathways affect aging, and has identified several genes and regulators that may facilitate future treatments of age-linked disorders, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

"Dr. Hansen holds the rare distinction of receiving four awards in the different aging research categories offered by AFAR: postdoctoral, early-career, mid-career and now the BIG Award," says Stephanie Lederman, executive director, AFAR. "She is a world-class scientist with a reputation for innovative research on the relationship between autophagy and aging. We are fully supportive of her research and believe our investment could lead to potential treatments or preventive measures that extend human health span."

Hansen is also associate dean of Student Affairs at Sanford Burnham Prebys' Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, faculty adviser of Postdoctoral Training within the Institute's Office for Education, Training and International Services and director of the Research and Development Core at San Diego's Nathan Shock Center--a world-class consortium established to study cellular and tissue aging in humans.

BIG Awards

The "Breakthroughs in Gerontology" initiative provides timely support to a small number of research projects that are relatively high risk but offer significant promise of yielding transforming discoveries in the fundamental biology of aging. Selected projects build on early discoveries that show translational potential for clinically relevant strategies, treatments and therapeutics, addressing human aging and health span. Recipients are selected by a committee of distinguished scientists working in the field of aging research.


About Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Research Institute

Sanford Burnham Prebys is a preeminent, independent biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding human biology and disease and advancing scientific discoveries to profoundly impact human health. For more than 40 years, our research has produced breakthroughs in cancer, neuroscience, immunology and children's diseases, and is anchored by our NCI-designated Cancer Center and advanced drug discovery capabilities. For more information, visit us at or on Facebook at and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

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