August 23, 2007

Salk Institute Appoints Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Guillemin as Interim President

Salk News

Salk Institute Appoints Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Guillemin as Interim President

La Jolla, CA – The Salk Institute for Biological Studies today announced the appointment of Nobel laureate and distinguished professor Dr. Roger Guillemin as Interim President. Guillemin officially takes office Oct. 1 and will remain in this capacity during the Institute’s ongoing search for a president.

“Roger’s distinguished reputation as a Nobel Prize-winning scientist and his 37-year history with the Salk makes him ideal to lead the Institute’s scientific community at this time,” said Irwin Jacobs, chair of the Salk’s Board of Trustees. “His pioneering contributions to science are a reflection of the Institute’s excellence in research and discovery.”

Guillemin received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1977 for discoveries that laid the foundation for brain hormone research. His work and that of his group brought to light an entire new class of substances shown to be important for the regulation of growth, development, reproduction and responses to stress.

Research laboratories and pharmaceutical industry have produced many synthetic analogs of these brain hormones. Analogs of somatostatin are used to treat several types of tumors and are the primary medical treatment of the pituitary adenomas leading to acromegaly. Analogs of another hormone (GnRH) are used in problems of infertility and tumors of the prostate.

Guillemin also was among the first to isolate endorphins, brain molecules known to act as natural opiates. Following the isolation of endorphins, his work with cellular growth factors (FGFs), in addition to inhibins and activins, led to the recognition of multiple physiological functions and developmental mechanisms.

“I am both touched and honored in the appointment by the Board during this period of transition in the leadership of the Salk Institute,” Guillemin said. “I already feel the enormous responsibility that is involved, however transitory.

“By all criteria, the Salk Institute is one of the most prestigious biological research institutions of the country and in the world. And its President and CEO must partake in that recognition. That is what I’ll help the Board finalize as soon as possible,” he said. “I am happy that I’ll be working with a board, a faculty and an administration that are well aware and conscious of these considerations.”

Born in France, Guillemin earned two baccalaureates in the public schools of Dijon, before enrolling in Lyon’s medical school in 1943. After graduating in 1949, he pursued a new interest in endocrinology by joining the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal, where he received his doctorate degree in 1953. Guillemin continued his work at Baylor College of Medicine for 17 years before joining the Salk Institute in 1970.

His many honors include: Election in 1974 to membership in the National Academy of Sciences; 1974 Gairdner International Award; 1975 Lasker Award in Basic Sciences; election in 1976 into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 1976 Dickson Prize in Medicine; 1976 Passano Award in Medical Sciences; 1976 National Medal of Science (USA). Guillemin is also listed as one of the most “highly cited” scientists from 1981 to 1999 by the Institute for Scientific Information.

Guillemin retired from laboratory science in 1989, but has remained active at Salk throughout the years. He shifted his long-standing expertise with computers from science to art and has been one of the pioneers in the expanding field of digital paintings.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

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