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Institute welcomes four new faculty

The Salk Institute is pleased to welcome a new full professor and three new assistant professors, all exceptional leaders in their respective fields. The new faculty will facilitate innovative and collaborative breakthroughs in understanding human health and disease.

“The Salk Institute’s efforts in groundbreaking and inventive work targeting some of our most pressing research and disease questions will be greatly enhanced by these outstanding researchers,” says Salk President William Brody. “We could not be more pleased to welcome such accomplished scientists.”

Alan Saghatelian

Alan Saghatelian

Alan Saghatelian, whose appointment was announced last fall, joined the Institute on July 1 as a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology. Saghatelian’s lab focuses on the biology of metabolites and peptides, two classes of molecules that are extremely important in disease–particularly diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease– but are understudied because of technical challenges.

Saghatelian developed new mass spectrometry methods that enable his lab to measure changes in these molecules, which could accelerate the development of novel medicines. Saghatelian plans to integrate these new methods into many areas of research through cross-disciplinary collaborations aimed at discovering new targets for disease therapy. By identifying how key metabolic hormones that control blood glucose levels are processed, for example, Saghatelian and his colleagues developed a drug-like compound that improves blood glucose in mice.

Saghatelian, who comes to the Salk from Harvard University, was previously awarded a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Searle Scholars Program Award, a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health and a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles for his undergraduate work in chemistry and pursued his graduate degree and postgraduate work at The Scripps Research Institute.

Assistant Professors

Kenta Asahina

Kenta Asahina

Kenta Asahina joins the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory as an assistant professor. He previously worked with David Anderson at the California Institute of Technology, where he strove to understand the connection between gene functions, the nervous system and social behavior. In particular, his work on aggression in fruit flies with Anderson garnered attention from the New York Times. He has won the 2009 BioMed Central Biology Prize and the 2011 JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research Abroad. At the Salk Institute, he will continue to study the genes and neural pathways that give rise to behaviors, with the hopes of translating findings to therapies for psychiatric disorders. Asahina received his undergraduate degree from the University of Tokyo and his PhD

Diana Hargreaves

Diana Hargreaves

Diana Hargreaves will be an assistant professor in the Cancer Research Center. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in pathology at the Stanford School of Medicine, where she is exploring the tumor suppressor mechanism of several epigenetic regulators recently identified in genome sequencing efforts of primary human tumors. Particularly, she is aiming to uncover how mutations in a complex within a cell’s nucleus contribute to the creation of tumors. At the Institute, she will continue to study the cause and development of human tumors from a biochemical and epigenetic perspective. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Science Foundation and Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and received her PhD in immunology at Yale University and her undergraduate degree from Haverford College.

Saket Navlakha

Saket Navlakha

Saket Navlakha is an assistant professor in the Salk Center for Integrative Biology. Navlakha, previously a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, studies “algorithms in nature”–how collections of molecules, cells and organisms communicate, process inputs and coordinate responses to solve problems. He plans to develop collaborations to create biological network analyses that bridge theoretical computer science and systems biology. Navlakha studied as an undergraduate at Simon’s Rock College and Cornell University and received a PhD in computer science focusing on biological networks at the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2013, he received an F32 postdoctoral fellowship award from the NIH.