The Pepper Center
301 University Blvd.
History During his 40 year career as a Florida congressman, Claude D. Pepper earned the reputation of being the "spokesman for the elderly". Always a strong advocate for older Americans, Pepper rejected the idea that physical and mental decline were an inevitable part of aging. He also co-authored legislation that established the National Cancer Institute, which became the first of many National Institutes of Health.
In honor of the late congressman, the Pepper OAICs were authorized by Congress to conduct, "research into the aging processes and into the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, disorders and complications related to aging, including menopause, which research includes research on such treatments, and on medical devices and other medical interventions regarding such diseases, disorders and complications, that can assist individuals in avoiding institutionalization and prolonged hospitalization and in otherwise increasing the independence of the individuals and programs to develop individuals capable of conducting research in these areas."
There are currently 14 Pepper OAICs in the U.S., with the UTMB Pepper Center serving as the only Center in the Southwest. Visit the National Pepper Center Website.
In 1999, the University of Texas Medical Branch, Sealy Center on Aging was awarded a $6.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to establish the UTMB Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (OAIC), the only Pepper Center serving the Southwest. Under the direction of principal Investigator, James S. Goodwin, M.D., its major purpose was to study how muscle metabolism and function change with age and contributes to loss of independence in older persons.
In 2005, the UTMB OAIC grant was approved for renewed funding by NIA for an additional five years. The new focus of the UTMB OAIC was to examine muscle function from interdisciplinary perspectives across the entire spectrum of biomedical investigation from molecular biology to outcomes assessment. Pepper investigators were key in UTMB receiving its Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) award in 2009. In 2010, the NIA extended Pepper funding into 2015 under a new Principal Investigator, Elena Volpi, MD, PhD.
The $5.8 million award helps maintain a research infrastructure to train young investigators in aging research and to support externally funded projects on muscle aging and rehabilitation. Those projects bring more than $20 million to UTMB, mainly from the NIH. The center's 37 investigators have generated more than 300 scientific papers since its inception. A major goal of the Pepper center is to develop interventions to reduce loss of muscle and function that occurs in older adults. More than 750 volunteers from Galveston and the nearby mainland have already participated in Pepper Center research, most involving muscle studies. Promising treatments focus on nutrition, testosterone and exercise. During this five year cycle, the center will pay particular attention to expanding research that focuses on improving muscle function in older persons when they become ill and are hospitalized, even briefly.