Elderly man sits on hospital bed looking out towards the ward.

A Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Network, with a £3.8m budget to train 17 early career researchers, has been awarded to UNION (UnderstandiNg fraIlty tOwards a future of healthy ageiNg). UNION is a multi-partner joint doctoral research training network that aims to advance current understanding of frailty and to provide innovative solutions on how healthy ageing can be achieved.

UNION brings together world leaders in frailty, ageing biology and medicine, inflammation, immunosenescence, immunometabolism and stem cell biology with state-of-the art technological excellence from across Europe and beyond

Together this integrated activity will provide the highest quality training and research environment to 17 newly recruited international early career researchers in our rapidly ageing society, where governments around the world are prioritising the enhancement of healthspan. This investment in new researchers will allow Birmingham to become a hub of activity for the future, drawing upon our already standout expertise in this area.

Professor Claudio Mauro, Institute of Inflammation and Ageing.

Professor Claudio Mauro, from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing of the University of Birmingham, will lead on UNION alongside Professor Massimiliano Ruscica from the Universita’ Statale di Milano. The work brings together numerous experts from across the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing including Professor Simon Jones, Dr Niharika Duggal, Professor Joao Pedro Meghalaes, Dr Thomas Jackson and Emeritus Professor Janet Lord, as well as from University College London (Mauri), Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Formentini and Mittelbrunn), Universita’ Statale di Milano (Ruscica), Istituto San Raffaele di Milano (Di Micco and Iannacone), Universita’ del Salento (Maffia), University of Berlin (Simon), University of Cologne (Frezza and Polidori) and Karolinska (Vetrano) in Europe, Mayo Clinic (Weyand) in US and University of Sydney (Fontana) in Australia. It also involves numerous non-academic beneficiaries, including learned societies, scientific journals, start-ups and pharma.

On average older adults spend the last 15-20 years of life in ill health. Frailty is a major component of ill health in old age and refers to an enhanced vulnerability to stressors, such as falls, surgery or infections. Understanding the transition from robust health to frailty is vital since it is a critical factor in the loss of independence, and therefore places increased pressure on health and social care.

As with all Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral Networks, the objective of UNION is to implement doctoral programmes by partnerships of organisations from different sectors across Europe and beyond to train highly skilled doctoral candidates, stimulate their creativity, enhance their innovation capacities and boost their employability in the long-term.