Dr. William R. Brody, President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, an acclaimed physician-scientist, entrepreneur, and university leader, joined the Salk Institute on March 2, 2009 after 12 years as president of The Johns Hopkins University. He is a national figure in efforts to encourage innovation and strengthen the U.S. economy through investments in basic research and education. Most recently, he has written and spoken extensively around the country to promote a fuller discussion of health care reform.
Renowned for his achievements in biomedical engineering, Dr. Brody has over 100 publications and two U.S. patents in the field of medical imaging, and has made contributions in medical acoustics, computed tomography, digital radiography, and magnetic resonance imaging. These contributions have led to his recognition by numerous national and international organizations. Dr. Brody is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, the American Institute of Biomedical Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2010, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Radiological Society of North America for his contributions to medical imaging science.
A native of Stockton, California, Dr. Brody received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his M.D. and Ph.D., also in electrical engineering, from Stanford University. Following post-graduate training in cardiovascular surgery and radiology at Stanford, the National Institutes of Health and the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Brody was associate professor and then professor of radiology and electrical engineering at Stanford University (1977-1986). He has been a co-founder of three medical device companies, and served as the president and chief executive officer of Resonex Inc. from 1984 to 1987.
Dr. Brody serves as a member of the Scientific Management Review Board of the National Institutes of Health and on the board of directors of IBM and Novartis. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Stanford University. He formerly served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Science Board of the Food and Drug Administration, on the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was a trustee of the Commonwealth Fund, the Whitaker Foundation, and the Minnesota Orchestra.
Dr. Brody is a private pilot holding airline transport pilot and flight instructor ratings. He and his wife, Wendy, have two grown children.
As medical and scientific challenges go, there can be little question that cancer remains among the most enigmatic, confounding and vexing. But every day at the Salk Institute, investigators are learning more and more about the mechanisms behind the 100+ diseases called cancer, offering hope that someday incremental advances from their labs will coalesce into significant discoveries that lead to new, more effective treatments. From where I stand, that's a tremendously exciting prospect.
The current issue of Inside Salk celebrates the important discoveries that our scientists have made (and will continue to make) in the quest for new understanding of cancer and new therapeutic alternatives. Our cover story introduces the diverse, yet complementary, work of some of our leading cancer researchers, while our One on One feature reveals a different side of Geoff Wahl, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory, who has devoted his life to studying the disease, with a special focus on breast cancer. Our Next Generation article shines a spotlight on postdoc Ignacio Sancho-Martinez, whose wide-ranging interests freely cross boundaries, including possible connections between the way the body regenerates damaged organs and ways to approach cancer cells using reprogramming techniques.
These advances reflect the Institute's extraordinary strength in cancer research, and it's one of the reasons why cancer is a key scientific initiative of the Campaign for Salk. Few institutions are as well equipped to tackle the riddles of the condition, and by generating the resources to bolster support for cancer studies at the Institute, the initiative promises to accelerate the pace of discovery and bring us closer to the day when cancer is outwitted by the therapies employed against it.
Complementing the stories on cancer research is a feature on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and how its support of Salk scientists has transformed their work and an article on Lei Wang's fascinating breakthroughs with artificial amino acids.
I hope you'll enjoy reading about the latest science and related goings-on here at Salk. I firmly believe that our successes are your successes because nothing we do would be possible without the support of friends like you. All of us at the Institute are most grateful for your friendship.
- The War on Cancer - In 1971, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, a milestone considered the beginning of the "war on cancer" in the United States. One side effect of his declaration of war was making the National Cancer Institute, already well established as one of the institutes in the National Institutes of Health, more independent and providing a burst of funding to accelerate the scientific search for new treatments and cures.
- The "compression of illness" hypothesis - Years ago, Stanford physician Dr. James Fries proposed an idea which has been deemed the “compression of illness” hypothesis. According to Fries, the best strategy both for healthy living and lowering medical costs is to delay the time of onset of chronic disease: in other words, slow down the appearance and progression of chronic illness.
- Faster cures come from faster discoveries - The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decline that some attribute to more stringent requirements imposed by the FDA. While this observation may be partly correct, the fact is that the beginning of the millennium was a watershed for drug development. This was in large part thanks to rapid advances taking place in basic science laboratories, such as those at the Salk Institute.
- The big elephant in the room - With all the emphasis on cost control by the Congress, the big elephant in the room that has not yet been tamed is the rapid rise of costs for the care of Medicare recipients. Recently I spoke to the vice dean for clinical investigation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and he echoed the sentiment that Medicare patients with five or more chronic ailments are consuming a large fraction of Medicare costs and sapping the energy of the healthcare delivery system.
- Philanthropy comes from the heart - I have been asked on many occasions to name the most significant gift I received as the head of a large research university where philanthropic gifts totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Without question, one of the most moving and significant donations came from a ten-year-old boy, Conor Griffin Goetz.
- About thinking...fast and slow - If you haven't had a chance to read Daniel Kahneman's new book, Thinking Fast and Slow, I highly recommend it to you. Dr. Kahneman is one of only two people to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics who is not an economist; rather, he is a behavioral psychologist. Many of his landmark studies have pointed out the irrationality in our decision making that violates the well-accepted "laws" of economics—like supply and demand.
- "The Times They Are A-Changin'" - In these "changing times," the support of our loyal benefactors becomes more and more important to offset the loss of support from the government.
- Serendipity and science - The "secret sauce" of Salk scientific discovery is the unique character of our institute. There are no departments or divisions and the architectural design of the Salk facilitates interaction among scientists in the laboratory. Facilitating interaction among the best minds in seemingly unrelated fields is one important aspect of scientific (or should I say "serendipitous") discovery.
- Sutton's law and chronic illness - Sutton's law of healthcare says if you want to reduce healthcare costs, you have to find ways of reducing the economic impact of chronic illness, ideally by preventing or significantly delaying when affliction occurs, or finding better and more cost-effective ways of treating the illness.