Inside Salk; Salk Institute

Institute Gains Visibility During
Chihuly at the Salk

William Brody

What an extraordinary celebration we enjoyed in April to herald the Salk Institute's 50th anniversary year. If you took part in one of the sold-out tours we offered during Chihuly at the Salk, I suspect you would agree that the wildly colorful glass installation by renowned artist Dale Chihuly was a tremendous success.

The event paid homage to Jonas Salk, who was fervently committed to both science and art. It also gave visitors the chance to experience the Institute's inspiring architecture and learn a bit about the groundbreaking research taking place inside these legendary walls.

More than 5,000 people joined us for the arts events, many of whom expressed curiosity about our research. Some have already returned to the campus to learn more about Salk science, most recently for our reinvigorated Back to Basics lecture series.

Attendees of that May 25 Back to Basics event have already shown great interest in our next lecture. Scheduled for Nov. 3, it will highlight Associate Professor Andy Dillin's research on aging.

Recently, Dillin's team slowed the aging process in mice engineered to develop Alzheimer's disease and discovered that they could prevent the mice from developing the disease. Worth noting, the genes that were perturbed to acquire the age-slowing effect are the same genes that other studies have found are mutated in centenarians.

Dillin believes his latest finding may open the door to the development of drugs that target this genetic pathway to keep Alzheimer's disease at bay.

Another apparent outcome of Chihuly at the Salk and the associated strong media coverage is that we are seeing increased participation in our daily architectural tours. This offers us another opportunity to expose a larger number of visitors to the important work that takes place in the labs and to convey a sense of the Institute's rich 50-year history in La Jolla.

While the Salk is recognized by scientists around the world for its superb research contributions, the Institute's impact in stem cell, molecular biology, neurobiology and plant biology research is far less apparent to our hometown neighbors.

Chihuly at the Salk raised our profile in the community. Four months later, we are still reaping the benefits of our public celebration of five decades of Salk discoveries. The 15th annual Symphony at Salk with Liza Minnelli on August 28th, and a high-profile scientific symposium in late October will round out our special programs marking the 50th anniversary. We intend to build on the momentum of these activities for many years to come.