The Salk Institute has received a $20 million grant from Board of Trustee Vice Chairman Ted Waitt to establish an Advanced Biophotonics Center at the Institute. The gift, provided through the Waitt Family Foundation, will pay for build-out of the Center, provide salary support for new faculty and senior technician specialists, and the development and acquisition of some of today's most sophisticated imaging equipment.
"This generous grant by the Waitt Family Foundation provides a major step to create a facility that will help researchers push the boundaries of science even further at Salk," said Inder Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics.
"The scientific expertise we will gather and the highly advanced instrumentation we will develop will enable our scientists to visually decipher the basic principles behind some of today's most complicated diseases."
The Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center will house a convergence of technical advances in several areas: faster cameras, highly powerful microscopes, new light emitting dyes and enough computing power to handle live images occupying up to a terabyte of storage space, all of which allow scientists to detect single photons and record the interaction of molecules to study and understand their function in healthy and diseased cells.
The ability to clearly see cells' minute inner workings will give Salk scientists an even deeper understanding of basic principles of biology and many diseases. This new knowledge, for example, could help explain why some cancer cells are resistant to therapy while others respond. It will also transform the way researchers analyze complex systems such as the brain, and revolutionize the way diseases are treated.
In conjunction with the $20 million grant, the Salk Institute has agreed to establish the Waitt Challenge Grant, which is designed to inspire philanthropic contributions and challenge the Institute to raise up to $20 million that can be applied toward additional funding for the Advanced Biophotonics Center or any other restricted or unrestricted purpose at the Institute.
"The creation of an advanced biophotonics center has the potential to take Salk's already phenomenal science to a new level, and the challenge grant has the potential to further cement Salk's solid foundation," said Ted Waitt, co-founder of Gateway, Inc., who has gone on to form multiple enterprises since his retirement from the company.
"We are most grateful for the Waitt Family Foundation's contribution toward this critical component of Salk's forward-thinking initiatives," said Salk Executive Vice President Marsha Chandler. "This grant serves as an extraordinary catalyst for Salk's plan to build a comprehensive biophotonics program that leads technological advances in critical research areas."