April 12, 2013

Salk Institute promotes three top scientists

Salk News

Salk Institute promotes three top scientists

LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute is pleased to announce the promotions of faculty members, John Reynolds to the rank of full professor and Clodagh O’Shea and Tatyana Sharpee to associate professors based on recommendations by the Salk faculty and non-resident fellows, and approved by President William R. Brody and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.

“It is especially gratifying to be able to award these promotions to such an excellent group of scientists,” says Brody. “This is well deserved acknowledgment of all they have accomplished as scientific leaders and innovative researchers in their respective fields. On behalf of the Salk community, I extend to each of them our congratulations.”

John Reynolds
who conducts his research in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratories, explores the fundamental nature of the computations that are carried out by the neocortex, including those that enable us to attend to sensory stimuli. He seeks to understand how and why these 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, Balint’s Syndrome, visual neglect, attentional aspects of autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease. The long-range goal of Reynolds’s laboratory is to understand the neural mechanisms of selective visual attention at the level of the individual neuron and the cortical circuit, and to relate these to perception and conscious awareness.

Clodagh O’Shea
of the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and holder of the William Scandling Developmental Chair, is an expert on oncolytic viruses – viruses that can only reproduce in cancer cells. Such viruses offer a novel and potentially self-perpetuating cancer therapy: Each time a virus infects a cancer cell and successfully multiplies, the virus ultimately kills the cancer cell by bursting it open to release thousands of viral progenies. The next generation seeks out remaining tumor cells and distant micro-metastases but leaves normal cells unharmed. O’Shea is at the forefront of this cutting edge technology and her lab has developed a new generation of the engineered adenovirus to more effectively seek out and rupture cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells intact. Her lab is also working in parallel on other multi-pronged strategies ranging from arming tumor-seeking viruses with toxic proteins to re-engineering their outer “coat” so they can home in on tissue-specific targets.

Tatyana Sharpee
of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory studies how the brain operates in a natural sensory environment. She works on theoretical principles of how the brain processes information and examines how sensory processing is shaped by the need to create parsimonious representations of events in the outside world. Using methods from physics and information theory, Sharpee and her colleagues are developing statistical methods that can help identify how the brain can rapidly recognize objects despite variations in their position relative to us. This work may eventually lead to better prostheses for patients whose object recognition has been impaired as a result of a stroke or neurodegenerative diseases.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

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