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A Taste of Discovery - Researchers Share Stories of Latest Breakthroughs

Tast of Discovery

Non-Resident Fellow Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D. (left) and Inder Verma

Two special events in New York City on April 13th introduced East Coast friends to some of the Institute's latest and most exciting research.

Tast of Discovery

Kenneth Rind, Ph.D.

The New York Salkexcellerators held its inaugural meeting in the offices of Covington and Burling LLP in The New York Times building. More than 50 people attended to hear a fascinating presentation by Inder Verma, a senior scientist in the Salk's Laboratory of Genetics and an American Cancer Society Professor, who discussed the steady development of gene therapy — a field in which he pioneered the use of stripped-down versions of viruses, in particular HIV, to ferry intact versions of genes that are defective or missing to cells throughout the body.

Most recently, the lenti virus engineered in his lab in the 1990s was successfully used in clinical trials to arrest a genetic brain disease in two boys from Spain. The news has since sparked a renaissance in gene therapy.

Tast of Discovery

Irwin Mark Jacobs, Sc.D. (Chair, Salk Board of Trustees)

"Dr. Verma's delivery made even the most complex research accessible to an audience with a generally non-science background," said Lena Evans, a founding cabinet member of the New York Salkexcellerators. "Many were impressed by the incredible strides made at the Salk over the last 20 years. For those in the audience who were interested in a particular disease or therapeutic target, it was clear that gene therapy applies to so many of their concerns, which stressed the broad impact of basic research."

The New York group is spearheaded by Evans and fellow cabinet members Carrie Hammerslag, Mark Kronfeld, Mary Jane Salk and Sara Tirschwell. Its West Coast counterpart, which held a meeting May 3 with guest speaker and Salk scientist Fred H. "Rusty" Gage, formed in 2008.

Taste of Discovery

Morleen Rouse (left) and Françoise Gilot

More than 80 friends of the Institute attended the Taste of Discovery luncheon, which was held at the 21 Club. Verma and Salk's Joanne Chory, professor and director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, each gave brief talks from their respective fields in a presentation titled The Broad Reach of Salk Science: From Plants to Cancer.

A world-leading plant biologist, Chory explained her lab's interest in the mechanisms governing how plants respond to light and her discovery of brassinolide, a steroid hormone that controls plant development. It is her lab's goal to help solve the world's food supply shortage with this and other findings. Mary Jane Salk underwrote the event.

For more information on attending Salk events, please contact Betsy Reis, director of Donor Relations and Stewardship, at 858-453-4100 x1426 or e-mail: