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A Taste of Discovery: Demonstrating the Impact of Philanthropy

The Salk Institute hosted two successful A Taste of Discovery events in November. Members of the President's Club learned how their philanthropic investments are having an impact on innovative and ambitious research.

Fred H. "Rusty" Gage's presentation on Nov. 5 in San Diego focused on his lab's studies of neural stem cells, and how his team has learned to induce such stem cells to become mature, functioning nerve cells in the adult brain and spinal cord. Better basic understanding of these and other methods of regeneration is vital to replacing tissues that have been lost or damaged due to trauma or neurodegenerative diseases.

Marc Montminy and Reuben Shaw each presented on Nov. 13 in New York, discussing their groundbreaking research with strong applications toward obesity, diabetes and cancer. In a collaborative study, for example, the two scientists found that Metformin, a drug known to lower blood glucose levels, specifically targets a genetic switch that Montminy previously discovered remains permanently "on" in many Type II diabetes patients. By identifying Metformin's molecular target, they have opened the door for new, more effective drugs to be developed.

"Major philanthropic support is absolutely vital to accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and we are grateful to our donors for their generosity," says Salk Executive Vice President Marsha A. Chandler. "Gifts to the Salk Institute help us retain and attract world renowned scientists such as Marc, Reuben, and Rusty, and assure them the funding needed to carry out innovative—and often unconventional—research projects that have the potential to improve human health."