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Salk News


Fruit fly brains inform search engines of the future

LA JOLLA—Every day, websites you visit and smartphone apps that you use are crunching huge sets of data to find things that resemble each other: products that are similar to your past purchases; songs that are similar to tunes you’ve liked; faces that are similar to people you’ve identified in photos. All these tasks are known as similarity searches, and the ability to perform these massive matching games well—and fast—has been an ongoing challenge for computer scientists.


Immune cell policing offers insights into cancer, autoimmune disease

LA JOLLA—Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are the traffic cops of the immune system. They instruct other types of immune cells on when to stop and when to go. Learning how to direct the activity of Tregs has important implications for improving cancer immunotherapy as well as developing better treatments for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.


Salk scientists lead $25 million initiative to develop atlas of brain cell types

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists will lead a multimillion-dollar, five-year initiative to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by systematically identifying and cataloging cell types across the mammalian brain, the National Institutes of Health has announced. The effort, which is part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative®, will be co-led by Salk Professors Joseph Ecker and Ed Callaway. Researchers from USC and UC San Diego will also participate in the collaboration.


“Busybody” protein may get on your nerves, but that’s a good thing

LA JOLLA—Sensory neurons regulate how we recognize pain, touch, and the movement and position of our own bodies, but the field of neuroscience is just beginning to unravel this circuitry. Now, new research from the Salk Institute shows how a protein called p75 is critical for pain signaling, which could one day have implications for treating neurological disorders as well as trauma such as spinal cord injury.


Salk Institute garners prestigious statewide preservation awards

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has been named the recipient of two awards, including the top honor, by the California Preservation Foundation for the restoration of its teak window systems and establishment of an endowment for future conservation projects. The awards were presented at the 34th annual Preservation Design Awards & President’s Awards ceremony on October 13, 2017, at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco.


Salk researchers awarded $2.5 million for innovative pancreatic cancer clinical trial

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor and HHMI Investigator Ronald Evans has been awarded $2.5 million by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) as part of a multi-institution team to conduct clinical studies to open up a new avenue for immunotherapy in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. While the cancer normally excludes immune T-cells, the Evans lab discovered that modified vitamin D reprograms the cancer environment in a way that may allow the Merck drug Keytruda® to invade and destroy the tumor.


Can you hear me now? Ensuring good cellular connections in the brain

LA JOLLA—To have a good phone conversation, you need a good cellular connection. What’s true for mobile phones also turns out to be true for neurons.


Salk neurobiologist receives NIH Director’s New Innovator award

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Assistant Professor Eiman Azim has been named an NIH Director’s New Innovator for 2017 as part of the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. The award provides $1.5 million for a 5-year project during which Azim will explore how the nervous system controls dexterous movements.


Salk Institute revenues rise to $134 million in 2017 fiscal year

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced that total revenues in fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017) rose to $134 million from $118 million the previous fiscal year, a 13.5 percent increase. Nearly half of the revenues, $62 million, came from donors, including foundation gifts and grants, and individual gifts and bequests. The balance came from government and corporate funding and investment income.


Keynote address at the University of Queensland’s international scientific conference

Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn was invited to present the keynote address at the University of Queensland last month on gender equity and diversity issues in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) disciplines. Blackburn is Australia’s first female Nobel laureate. Following her address, which received a positive audience response, she participated in a panel discussion on the barriers and challenges of women in science. Here is a transcript of her address:


Salk scientist Silvana Konermann named HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow

LA JOLLA—Silvana Konermann, a research associate in the lab of Helmsley-Salk Fellow Patrick Hsu, was chosen as one of 15 inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray Fellows. Each fellow will receive up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years.


The right way to repair DNA

LA JOLLA—Is it better to do a task quickly and make mistakes, or to do it slowly but perfectly? When it comes to deciding how to fix breaks in DNA, cells face the same choice between two major repair pathways. The decision matters, because the wrong choice could cause even more DNA damage and lead to cancer.


MicroRNA helps cancer evade immune system

LA JOLLA—The immune system automatically destroys dysfunctional cells such as cancer cells, but cancerous tumors often survive nonetheless. A new study by Salk scientists shows one method by which fast-growing tumors evade anti-tumor immunity.


Partnership for a healthy brain

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have discovered that an interaction between two key proteins helps regulate and maintain the cells that produce neurons. The work, published in Cell Stem Cell on September 14, 2017, offers insight into why an imbalance between these precursor cells and neurons might contribute to mental illness or age-related brain disease.


Elizabeth Blackburn, Salk Institute’s first female president, honored by TIME as a trailblazing woman

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute President Elizabeth Blackburn—the Institute’s first female president and one of only 12 women to have won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine—is among 46 honorees featured in FIRSTS, a new TIME multimedia project celebrating “women who broke ground in their fields” and “played pioneers in history,” the Salk Institute announced today.


Salk computational neurobiologist receives NSF grant to study how brain processes sound

LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Tatyana Sharpee has been awarded a grant of approximately $950,000 over 4 years by the National Science Foundation to study how the brain processes complex sounds. This grant is part of a multi-national project together with groups in France and Israel.


Protein turnover could be clue to living longer

LA JOLLA—It may seem paradoxical, but studying what goes wrong in rare diseases can provide useful insights into normal health. Researchers probing the premature aging disorder Hutchinson-Gilford progeria have uncovered an errant protein process in the disease that could help healthy people as well as progeria sufferers live longer.


New kinds of brain cells revealed

LA JOLLA—Under a microscope, it can be hard to tell the difference between any two neurons, the brain cells that store and process information. So scientists have turned to molecular methods to try to identify groups of neurons with different functions.


Salk neuroscientist receives new NSF award to model the brain

LA JOLLA—As part of the National Science Foundation’s funding for new multidisciplinary approaches to neuroscience, Salk Professor Terrence Sejnowski together with the California Institute of Technology will receive over $1 million over 3 years to pursue advanced modeling of the brain.


Early gene-editing success holds promise for preventing inherited diseases

LA JOLLA—Scientists have, for the first time, corrected a disease-causing mutation in early stage human embryos with gene editing. The technique, which uses the CRISPR-Cas9 system, corrected the mutation for a heart condition at the earliest stage of embryonic development so that the defect would not be passed on to future generations.