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Back to Basics Lecture Draws Friends Back to the Salk

Donors gathered at the Salk Institute to hear the answer to a question that one of its senior faculty members has investigated for the better part of his 30-year career: Is it possible to mimic the positive effects of exercise with a pill?

The answer is yes, said Ron Evans, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. In a study that made international headlines, his team of scientists showed that the investigational drug, AICAR, revved up the metabolic master switch in the genes of sedentary mice, resulting in enhanced muscle tone and endurance when the animals were placed on treadmills.

Evans' presentation in May was part of the Back to Basics program, which returned after an extended hiatus. The popular event, organized by Salk's Planned Giving office, also Back to Basics Lecture Draws Friends Back to the Salk featured a presentation by Mary Van Nostrand, a certified financial planner with more than 27 years of investment experience.

Evans explained in detail how the drug, made up of molecules naturally produced in the body, works at the genetic level to trigger an increase in metabolic activity, essentially mimicking exercise. While AICAR and a second drug produced in his lab, GW1516, immediately caught the attention of athletes looking for an edge in their performance, Evans said the drugs could have much broader medical applications.

"These drugs are not for athletes, but they have the potential to treat a number of serious medical problems, such as frailty, obesity — essentially anyone who cannot physically exercise as a result of disease or injury."

Van Nostrand preceded Evans with a presentation on the latest rules and regulations and wealth-building benefits associated with Roth IRAs. In most cases, she said, donating traditional IRAs to charity is the best option to maximize their funding impact since they are taxed heavily upon the owner's demise.

On the contrary, Van Nostrand explained that Roth IRAs are never taxed since contributions you make have already been taxed, and they don't have minimum required distributions. Also, if a Roth IRA is willed to a younger member of the family, the interest it earns, as well as additional contributions to the account, continue to compound year after year tax-free, making it an effective estate planning tool.

"I like to think of Roth IRAs as the gift that keeps on giving," Von Nostrand said.

For more information on Back to Basics and/or planned giving, please contact Cheryl Dean, Senior Director, Planned Giving at 858.453.4100 x1228 or e-mail