The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has appointed Elena Volpi, MD, PhD, FGSA, as director of its Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. She will also be a professor in the Department of Medicine effective July 1, said Robert Hromas, MD, dean of the health science center’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.
Volpi joins UT Health Science Center San Antonio from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), where she is a tenured professor in the departments of internal medicine, neurobiology, neurology, and nutrition and metabolism, and serves as the director of the Sealy Center on Aging and the associate director of the Institute for Translational Sciences. She is also a practicing clinician in geriatrics and diabetes.
Volpi was born and raised in Perugia, Italy. She graduated from the University of Perugia with an MD degree and a PhD degree in applied pathophysiology and specialized in endocrinology. She then moved to UTMB for a postdoctoral fellowship in gerontology and metabolism, and after four years as a junior faculty member at the University of Southern California, returned to UTMB where she has been ever since.
Over her 23 years at UTMB, Volpi has built a robust translational research program in aging. The program currently brings more than $20 million per year in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. She is an expert in muscle aging, sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass, strength and function), muscle metabolism, nutrition, diabetes and recovery of activity after illness in older adults.
She has mentored multiple graduate and medical students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty. She directs two graduate courses: Tracer Methodology and Directed Studies in Metabolism. Throughout her career she has obtained more than $30 million in NIH funding as a principal investigator and collaborates with multiple other aging research teams nationally and internationally.
Pepper Center leader
Volpi has been the principal investigator of the UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center since 2010, renewing it for three cycles. She has also participated in several multisite clinical trials funded by NIH and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) in geriatric patients, including ASPREE, the STRIDE Study, STEP-HI, the Dementia-CARE Study, and the HFpEF-REHAB Study.
Volpi has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, has served as a member of many NIH study sections, and has been the chair of the Aging Systems and Geriatric Study Section. She is a past-chair of the Fellowship Committee of the Gerontological Society of America, and currently serves as an associate editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the president of the European Sports Nutrition Society. She has recently been invited to become a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors for the NIH Intramural Research Program.
Spouse also joining institution
Volpi has been married to Blake Rasmussen, PhD, for more than 23 years and they have two sons. Rasmussen, also of UTMB, will join the Long School of Medicine as professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology and in the Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine. He will also be appointed director of the Long School of Medicine’s new Center for Metabolic Health, focusing on translating our discoveries in obesity and diabetes to clinical trials.
Barshop Institute is a world leader
The Sam and Ann Barshop Institute is named for legendary Texas businessman and philanthropist Sam Barshop (1929-2013) and his wife, Ann (1930-2023), who died this past February. A keen proponent of education, Sam Barshop served as a member of The University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1987 to 1993. The Barshops, both visionaries, supported increasing scientific knowledge of aging processes to ensure healthy longevity, free of the disabilities brought about by age-related diseases and conditions.
Their namesake institute is one of the world’s premier aging-intensive research institutes. The Barshop Institute is the only such institute in the country to have four designations: two National Institute on Aging-funded centers (Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging and Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center), a testing site of the NIA-sponsored Interventions Testing Program and a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.
The Barshop Institute occupies a new state-of-the-art building that opened in 2020.