Inside Salk; Salk Insitute

Executive Message

William R. Brody

The most innovative ideas often come from surprising places–and that’s especially true in science. Biologists and computer scientists, for instance, see the world in very different ways, but the happy collision of those worldviews can lead to something entirely new. The Salk Institute has always embraced and encouraged such cross- pollination, and Salk scientists often mention this “culture of collision”– to coin a phrase–as a big part of why they chose to come here.

The feature story in this issue of Inside Salk–“The Power of Connections”–examines some significant advancements produced by these interdisciplinary partnerships. Alan Saghatelian and Reuben Shaw, for example, are uniting their respective expertise in biology and chemistry to better understand cancer metabolism. In our “Next Generation” article, you’ll learn how Salk researchers and spouses Zuyu Zheng and Yongxia Guo, though working in separate labs, collaborate to study plant survival mechanisms, an issue vital to future crop production. And you’ll see how rewarding partnerships often extend beyond the Salk campus. A case in point is Martyn Goulding, who recently teamed up with researchers at Harvard Medical School to identify a neural mechanism in the spinal cord that appears to be implicated in sending erroneous pain signals to the brain, a major discovery that could benefit patients who suffer from such disorders as fibromyalgia and phantom limb pain.

A number of other notable discoveries are featured in the “Discovery Roundup” section. Beverly Emerson has uncovered details about how cancer uses a diversification strategy to develop drug resistance and Geoffrey Wahl has found a way to identify previously undetectable protein interactions, which could provide new targets for cancer therapeutics. Katherine Jones, also investigating proteins, has identified a protein integral to active HIV replication and one that enables the disease to strike the immune system years after lying dormant. Two discoveries, from the labs of Ronald Evans and Satchidananda Panda, drew worldwide attention. Panda’s study found that confining caloric consumption to an 8- to 12-hour period–as people did just a century ago–might stave off high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Evans’ team developed a new compound, fexaramine, that can trick the body into thinking it has consumed calories and burned calories, thus raising hopes of a successful diet pill.

No scientific advancement occurs without tremendous teamwork and one partnership I am cognizant of on a daily basis is the one we share with you. Your interest in and support of fundamental biological research buoys our determination and drives our discoveries. For that, we are all thankful.