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Salk News


Salk Institute augments leadership structure

LA JOLLA—With Elizabeth Blackburn planning to retire at the end of this summer, the Salk Institute has augmented its operational leadership structure, naming Professor Fred “Rusty” Gage as Interim President and Blackburn as President Emerita, as the Board of Trustees begins a search for a permanent successor. In December, Blackburn announced plans to retire and engage even more broadly in issues related to science and science policy.


The Salk Institute and Indivumed partner to advance global cancer research

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute, which hosts a National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated cancer center and Indivumed GmbH, a world leading cancer research company today announce a multi-year strategic alliance to secure, preserve and analyze human cancer tissue and annotated clinical data from consenting patients around the world, enabling the most cutting-edge basic and translational research in cancer.


Salk scientists curb growth of cancer cells by blocking access to key nutrients

LA JOLLA—Salk researchers have discovered how to curb the growth of cancer cells by blocking the cells’ access to certain nutrients. The approach, detailed in a new paper published today in Nature, took advantage of knowledge on how healthy cells use a 24-hour cycle to regulate the production of nutrients and was tested on glioblastoma brain tumors in mice.


What happens when your brain’s support cells aren’t so supportive?

LA JOLLA—Potentially explaining why even healthy brains don’t function well with age, Salk researchers have discovered that genes that are switched on early in brain development to sever connections between neurons as the brain fine-tunes, are again activated in aging neuronal support cells called astrocytes. The work, which appeared in Cell Reports on January 2, 2018, suggests that astrocytes may be good therapeutic targets to prevent or reverse the effects of normal aging.


Alzheimer’s drug turns back clock in powerhouse of cell

LA JOLLA—The experimental drug J147 is something of a modern elixir of life; it’s been shown to treat Alzheimer’s disease and reverse aging in mice and is almost ready for clinical trials in humans. Now, Salk scientists have solved the puzzle of what, exactly, J147 does. In a paper published January 7, 2018, in the journal Aging Cell, they report that the drug binds to a protein found in mitochondria, the energy-generating powerhouses of cells. In turn, they showed, it makes aging cells, mice and flies appear more youthful.


Self-defense for plants

LA JOLLA—When you see brown spots on otherwise healthy green leaves, you may be witnessing a plant’s immune response as it tries to keep a bacterial infection from spreading. Some plants are more resistant to such infections than others, and plant biologists want to understand why. Salk Institute scientists studying a plant protein called SOBER1 recently discovered one mechanism by which, counterintuitively, plants seem to render themselves less resistant to infection.


Salk scientists Joanne Chory and Terrence Sejnowski named to National Academy of Inventors

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Professors Joanne Chory and Terrence Sejnowski have been elected Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Chory is director of the Salk Institute’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator and holder of the Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. Sejnowski is head of the Institute’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory, an HHMI Investigator and holder of the Francis Crick Chair.


Salk Institute President Elizabeth Blackburn announces retirement

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute President Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn has announced her plans to retire and step down as the Institute’s head at the end of this summer. The Board of Trustees, led by Dan Lewis, who was elected Chair in November, will commence a search for Blackburn’s successor beginning in January.


Multifunctional protein contributes to blood cell development

LA JOLLA—Like an actor who excels at both comedy and drama, proteins also can play multiple roles. Uncovering these varied talents can teach researchers more about the inner workings of cells. It also can yield new discoveries about evolution and how proteins have been conserved across species over hundreds of millions of years.


Getting straight to the heart of the matter in stem cells

LA JOLLA—The process by which embryonic stem cells develop into heart cells is a complex process involving the precisely timed activation of several molecular pathways and at least 200 genes. Now, Salk Institute scientists have found a simpler way to go from stem cells to heart cells that involves turning off a single gene.


Revealing the best-kept secrets of proteins

LA JOLLA—In the bustling setting of the cell, proteins encounter each other by the thousands. Despite the hubbub, each one manages to selectively interact with just the right partners, thanks to specific contact regions on its surface that are still far more mysterious than might be expected, given decades of research into protein structure and function.


When your spinal cord takes charge

LA JOLLA—We think of our brain as masterminding all of our actions, but a surprising amount of information related to movement gets processed by our spinal cord.


Salk scientists modify CRISPR to epigenetically treat diabetes, kidney disease, muscular dystrophy

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have created a new version of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology that allows them to activate genes without creating breaks in the DNA, potentially circumventing a major hurdle to using gene editing technologies to treat human diseases.


Salk Institute’s Joanne Chory awarded prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

La Jolla—Salk Institute scientist Joanne Chory, one of the world’s preeminent plant biologists who is now leading the charge to combat global warming with plant-based solutions, has been awarded a 2018 Breakthrough Prize for her pioneering work deciphering how plants optimize their growth, development and cellular structure to transform sunlight into chemical energy.


Elizabeth Blackburn, Salk’s Nobel Prize–winning president, gives TED talk about healthy aging

LA JOLLA—Elizabeth Blackburn, the Salk Institute’s first female president and one of only 12 women to have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, spoke about her pioneering scientific research on chromosomes—and its implications for aging well—in a TED talk that debuted this week. The talk, which took place in April in Vancouver, Canada, was part of the 2017 TED conference, a weeklong annual event featuring preeminent thinkers and practitioners from around the world exploring the most pressing questions of our time and imagining what our shared future might look like.


Salk scientist Gerald Joyce named 2017 AAAS Fellow for contributions to science

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Gerald Joyce has been a named a 2017 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. He earned the recognition for his distinguished research, which has had a profound impact on the scientific understanding of Darwinian evolution at the molecular level, especially pertaining to the evolution of RNA.


Salk Institute Trustees elect Daniel C. Lewis as Board Chairman

LA JOLLA, CA—Daniel C. Lewis, the former president of the global commercial management-consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, has been named chairman of the Salk Institute’s Board of Trustees. He assumes his new role immediately.


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.