Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Healthy ageing across the life course

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) aims to promote research that will lead to improved understanding of the maintenance of health across the whole life course, and provide knowledge and evidence to improve human health and wellbeing throughout life.

BBSRC’s standard research grant provides up to £2 million for projects in this priority area.
The standard research grant is an ongoing scheme. Projects can last up to five years.
Partners involved:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Systems and data-driven approaches, applied across the range of scales, from molecules and cells to systems, whole organisms and populations, are encouraged under this priority.

We also encourage multidisciplinary approaches, including those that draw on expertise from across the biosciences and, where the majority of the work falls within our remit, proposals at the interfaces with other research councils. These might include collaborations between biologists and physical, medical or social scientists.

Key areas

There are several key areas within the priority.

Fundamental biological mechanisms of the ageing process

In this key area, we want to understand the fundamental biological mechanisms of the ageing process across the life course, its modulation by nutrition, physical activity, and developmental factors. We also want to understand the extent to which these impact on health in later life.

The impact of ageing processes

We want to understand how ageing processes impact on homeostasis and physiological function in areas such as the musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, immune, cognitive, circadian and sensory systems. We also want to understand how this can lead to age-related frailty and poor health.

The role of epigenetic effects

In this key area we want to look at the role of epigenetic effects in development and ageing across the lifecourse, including transgenerational effects.

Developing model organisms and systems

We are interested in the development of appropriate model organisms and systems that provide insight into physiological processes that are key for maintaining health in humans. We also want to understand the biological basis of inter and individual differences in the ageing process.

Use of resources and data

In this key area we are interested in the use of resources and data from cohort studies, biobanks and longitudinal monitoring to increase the translation of research from model organisms and systems to the human population.

Advancing regenerative biology

We are interested in generating new knowledge to advance regenerative biology, including stem cell and tissue engineering research to improve the quality of life for the ageing population.

Identifying critical periods

The identification of ‘critical periods’ during the lifespan may be particularly susceptible to biological influences and exposures and could potentially inform on the timings of interventions.

The effects of the modern lifestyle

In this key area we want to understand the effect of modern lifestyle on human health, for example, sedentary behaviour, night shift work and sleep disruption.

Developing and validating outcome measures

The development and validation of appropriate outcome measures, such as biomarkers of healthy ageing could be used to monitor health and track the impact of interventions.

What’s outside our remit

Although it is recognised that ageing is a risk factor for the development of disease, research directed at human pathology and disease is outside our remit.


Outputs from an increased understanding of the basic biological mechanisms of normal healthy ageing are positioned uniquely at the vital, very early stage of knowledge generation in bioscience.

Impacts are expected to improve health and wellbeing across the life course when this increased understanding is used by other public and private funders to underpin innovation in healthcare, interventions to slow or modify the ageing process and new pharmaceutical targets.


You should explore the potential to translate the outputs of the work. For example, you could consider the translational opportunities that can arise from multidisciplinary collaborations and with ageing charities and the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

Capacity building is an important impact and proposals could identify opportunities both for training and bringing researchers from other disciplines into the area. Translational opportunities for outputs or impacts on policy with government bodies or departments should be explored.

Why we're doing it

This priority addresses the grand societal challenge of an increasing ageing human population and in particular, the disparity between lifespan and healthspan.

BBSRC’s overall aim of this priority is to promote research that will lead to improved understanding of the maintenance of health across the whole life course. We also aim to provide knowledge and evidence to advance the development of interventions to improve human health and wellbeing throughout life.

BBSRC aims to support research that increases our understanding of the biology of the normal healthy ageing process across the life course. This research will lead to strategies for improving lifelong health and wellbeing, and reduce pressure on the health and social care systems.


Opportunities, support and resources available

This is one of BBSRC’s priority areas for our standard research grant. You can apply at any time.

Standard (sometimes known as ‘responsive’) funding opportunities are open to a wide range of research and approaches within BBSRC’s remit.

Find out more about applying for funding and what to include in your application.

Who to contact

Alice Cardall

Telephone: 01793 413386

Last updated: 17 August 2023

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