April 22, 2009

Salk Launches Center for Nutritional Genomics with $5.5 Million Grant from Helmsley Trust

Salk News

Salk Launches Center for Nutritional Genomics with $5.5 Million Grant from Helmsley Trust

La Jolla, CA — The Salk Institute has received a $5.5 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to launch the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics. The new Center will employ a molecular approach to nutrition and its impact on the role of metabolism on the immune system, cancer, diabetes and lifespan, thereby increasing the understanding of how nutrients affect health.

Capitalizing on the Salk’s strength in collaborative research, the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics will draw expertise from leading laboratories at the Institute to deepen its diabetes research with the intent to unravel the mechanisms that modulate the body’s energy balance and the factors that set the stage for metabolic disease.

“Given the fact that metabolism has clearly established itself as a common denominator in many research fields, I am very pleased that our scientists will have the opportunity to collaborate further and delve even deeper into this vitally important area of biological science,” said Salk President William R. Brody.

“The Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics will enable our investigators to develop new approaches to understand the metabolic changes associated with Type I and Type II diabetes, cancer and aging,” he said. “It will also help accelerate the development of new therapies and disease-prevention strategies.”

The grant will fund a Metabolic Core Facility, an interdisciplinary Fellows Program and breakthrough technologies, including the study of gene networks based on massive parallel sequencing of millions of genomic DNA fragments, which allow scientists to investigate a huge number of variables simultaneously and dramatically increase the speed and effectiveness of their work.

Adult obesity, which has increased 75 percent since 1980 in the U.S., is associated with a slew of metabolic disorders, including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — all of which are well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.

A major strength of the Salk Institute is its approach to fundamental aspects of medical physiology and endocrinology from the perspective of the genome. Its scientists look at metabolic control as a product of the regulated activity of metabolic genes, which undergo dramatic shifts, not only in response to fasting or feeding, but also in aging and disease.

“The study of metabolic control will provide fundamental answers that have profound implications for human disease and its treatment,” said Marc Montminy, professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at Salk. “Our scientists look at the genomics of metabolic control as the hub of a wheel whose individual spokes lead out to new insights into other disorders such as diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging.”

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 on both discovery and mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disorders 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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