June 7, 2013

Three Salk faculty awarded endowed chairs

Salk News

Three Salk faculty awarded endowed chairs

LA JOLLA, CA—Salk scientists Beverly M. Emerson, Christopher R. Kintner, and Paul E. Sawchenko were selected as inaugural holders of new endowed chairs created through the Joan Klein Jacobs and Irwin Mark Jacobs Senior Scientist Endowed Chair Challenge. In 2008, Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs created a challenge grant to establish endowed chairs for senior scientists. For every $2 million that a donor contributes toward an endowed chair at the Institute, the Jacobses will add $1 million to achieve the $3 million funding level required to fully endow a chair for a Salk senior scientist. To date, 17 out of 20 chairs have been established.

“The chair appointments are a testament to each of these scientists’ exceptional accomplishments in biological research. Their achievements and continued contributions to Salk are invaluable,” said Salk President William R. Brody. “I would also like to extend my gratitude to the visionary donors whose support ensures that Salk continues its legacy of groundbreaking discovery.”

Beverly M. Emerson is the inaugural holder of the Edwin K. Hunter Chair, established by the Olive Tupper Foundation, the Chambers Medical Foundation, the Jenkins Family Charitable Institute, and the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation. Mr. Hunter is a dedicated supporter of Salk and has served as the Chair of Salk’s Annual Tax Seminar since 2010.

Dr. Emerson, a professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory, studies the behavior of genes, notably how they are switched on and off during normal development and during the development of cancer. She explores the molecular mechanisms underlying the cellular response to stress and seeks to find new ways to more easily turn on and off genes that maintain normal tissue function. This work is important for discovering new strategies for repairing or eliminating damaged cells that contribute to cancer and other diseases.

Christopher R. Kintner is the inaugural holder of the Rita and Richard Atkinson Chair established by the Atkinsons “to recognize outstanding individuals who are making fundamental contributions to the advancement of science that will impact human health.”

Dr. Kintner, a professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, studies the molecular events that occur in the formation of the nervous system during embryonic development. His research focuses on the development of cells with motile cilia, finger-like projections that beat and move fluid in organs such as the lungs. He studies the genes that are required to form motile cilia and enable cells to orient cilia to beat in the same direction. Analyzing these key genetic pathways of normal development and differentiation of stem cells will advance knowledge about ciliopathies and lung diseases that affect cilia function and will ultimately help prevent or treat human birth defects.

Paul E. Sawchenko is the inaugural holder of the Wylie Vale Chair established by Liz Keadle, a loyal Salk donor who once worked in the laboratory of the late Salk professor. “Supporting the work of brilliant Salk researchers in Wylie’s memory is an honor that allows me to contribute in some small way to the advancement of science,” said Ms. Keadle.

Dr. Sawchenko, professor and head of the Laboratory of Neuronal Structure and Function, studies how the brain is organized to enable us to respond adaptively to stresses of different sorts, ranging from everyday life events that produce fear and anxiety to immune system challenges resulting from sickness or inflammation. He and his colleagues seek to define the complex networks of brain cells that allow us to cope with specific insults and to identify the molecules that mediate communication between cells within each network. Because stress contributes to the
development of many neurodegenerative diseases, including age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s, these studies are paving the way for more effective management of these conditions.

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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