Executive Message


The Salk Institute’s leadership, which comprises the president, faculty, administrators and board members, drives the strategic direction of the organization. The leadership includes the Academic Council, the Senior Management Team, the Board of Trustees and the Non-Resident Fellows.

President’s Executive Message


Recently, we honored the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Francis Crick,
who spent the second chapter of his scientific life at the Salk Institute. As you will no
doubt recall, Crick, who was born on June 8, 1916, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins for describing the double-helical
structure of DNA. Crick later joined the Salk Institute and turned his attention to
understanding the brain, another monumental challenge. Their discovery provided
access to the operating manual for all living things including our human bodies. Even
now, more than 60 years later, the workings of DNA continue to puzzle and surprise

In the current issue of Inside Salk, we take a look at the epigenome, a layer of information that
coats the genome and modifies its functions, often altering the way cells implement
DNA’s instructions. Scientists are finding that the epigenome plays critical roles in
health and disease and that it can change in surprising ways throughout a person’s
lifetime; it can even be passed down to the next generation. This is a tantalizing frontier
for science.

Another exciting frontier explored in this issue’s Observations interview with Salk
professor Ye Zheng is immune system research—and the possibility that our immune
system might be leveraged to fight a much broader range of diseases than previously
thought possible. Zheng and other Salk scientists are at the cutting edge of exploring
how to mobilize the immune system to fight cancers, metabolic disorders and even
prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

On a somber note, we also honor in this issue the lives of John Codey and Conrad Prebys,
visionary supporters of scientific research and great friends to the Salk Institute, both
of whom recently passed away. As a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Codey,
along with his fellow trustees and the staff of the Trust, made extraordinary gifts to
support Salk science over the past decade, including $42 million to launch the Institute’s
Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine. Prebys gave $25 million to Salk’s unrestricted
endowment, which funds basic research. In honor of that gift, the single largest to the
Institute’s endowment, the Salk Institute auditorium was named the Conrad T. Prebys
Auditorium. Codey’s and Prebys’ ardent enthusiasm for Salk and the power of science to
change lives led to numerous discoveries, some of them currently being tested in clinical
trials. They are highlighted here in the Discoveries section.

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD
President, Salk Institute
Irwin M. Jacobs Presidential Chair

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