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Three Salk faculty honored as recipients of senior scientist chairs

From left: Rusty Gage, Ursula Bellugi, William Brody, Joan Jacobs and Irwin Jacobs

Salk scientists Ursula Bellugi, John Reynolds and Alan Saghatelian have been honored with the dedication of three chairs in acknowledgement of their outstanding contributions and commitment to scientific research. Bellugi and Reynolds were named inaugural holders of two newly established chairs—the Salk Founders' Chair and the Fiona and Sanjay Jha Chair in Neuroscience, respectively. Saghatalian received the Dr. Frederik Paulsen Chair.

Bellugi has been professor and director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience since its inception in 1970. She received the distinguished honor of being named the inaugural recipient of the Salk Founders' Chair, given on behalf of Salk's president. Bellugi, a pioneer in the study of biological foundations of language and cognition, is regarded as the founder of the neurobiology of American Sign Language. She was the first to discover the principles of naturally occurring signed languages. Her work led to new discoveries about the functional organization of the brain for language, whether spoken or signed, and provides a striking demonstration of neuronal plasticity. Bellugi has also pioneered the study of individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), a rare neurogenetic disorder which gives rise to unusual prosocial behavior. Her program examines links across levels, from behavior to brain imaging and genetics.

From left: Anirvan Nandy, Sanjay Jha, John Reynolds, Catherine Williams and Zac Davis

Salk President William R. Brody says, "Professor Bellugi has had more than a lifetime of amazing achievements in the field of neuroscience. She has been a stalwart contributor to the ambience of the Salk Institute and it is a wonderful tribute to her that she will be the inaugural recipient of the Salk Founders' Chair."

Reynolds, professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, was honored with the Fiona and Sanjay Jha Chair in Neuroscience, which was created through the Joan Klein Jacobs and Irwin Mark Jacobs Senior Scientist Endowed Chair Challenge. In 2008, the Jacobses created a challenge grant to establish endowed chairs for senior scientists. For every $2 million that a donor contributes toward an endowed chair at the Institute, the couple will add $1 million to achieve the $3 million funding level required to fully endow a chair for a Salk senior scientist.

Reynolds seeks to understand how and why neural computations fail in brain disease—research that is essential to developing treatments for disorders in which attention and vision are impaired, such as visual agnosia, Bálint's syndrome, autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of GlobalFoundries and a Salk Institute trustee, says, "It is our great pleasure to support Salk's phenomenal research, particularly in neuroscience, so we can advance our understanding of the basis for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and depression, and forge new frontiers in neuronal computation."

From left: William Brody, Joan Jacobs, Alan Saghatelian and Irwin Jacobs

Saghatelian, professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, received the Dr. Frederik Paulsen Chair. Dr. Frederik Paulsen, board chairman of Ferring Pharmaceuticals and a trustee of the Salk Institute, established the chair in 1999 in memory of his father, Dr. Frederik Paulsen, Sr. It was first appointed to Salk emeritus Jean Rivier.

Saghatelian's lab focuses on the discovery and characterization of novel peptides and their role in diseases such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease. He has pioneered the use of mass spectrometry-based approaches to discover hundreds of new human peptide genes. His lab strives to understand the function and regulation of these peptides in human biology and disease.

Dr. Paulsen says, "We are proud to support the Salk Institute and the exceptional faculty whose groundbreaking research leads to discoveries that have a global impact on human health."