Executive Leadership Team

Salk Institute for Biological Studies - Leadership - Executive Leadership Team

Executive Leadership Team

Rusty Gage

Rusty Gage, PhD


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Rusty Gage currently serves as the president of the Salk Institute. In addition to his institutional leadership, Gage is a professor and Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases in the Laboratory of Genetics. His work concentrates on the adult central nervous system and unexpected plasticity and adaptability to environmental stimulation that remains throughout the life of all mammals. Gage’s efforts may lead to methods of replacing or enhancing brain and spinal cord tissues lost or damaged due to neurodegenerative disease or trauma.

The Gage lab showed that, contrary to accepted dogma, human beings are capable of growing new nerve cells throughout life. Small populations of immature nerve cells are found in the adult mammalian brain, a process called neurogenesis. Gage is working to understand how these cells can be induced to become mature functioning nerve cells in the adult brain and spinal cord. His lab showed that environmental enrichment and physical exercise can enhance the growth of new brain cells. They are studying the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms that may be harnessed to repair the aged and damaged brain and spinal cord.

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Sue Bacino

Vice President, Human Resources

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Sue Bacino is Vice President of Human Resources. In addition to leading the Human Resources function, she oversees the advancement of Salk’s mission through the recruiting, retention and support of a diverse, world-class faculty and staff.

Prior to Salk, Bacino served as head of HR for a medical device company in Carlsbad, California. In that role—reporting to the CEO and serving as a key member of the leadership team—Bacino was responsible for the implementation of all HR-related processes and functions. Before that role, she held the same position at Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, where she partnered with scientific leadership on recruiting, engaging and retaining talent for this Novartis research site located in San Diego.

She has also served as executive director of HR for Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and she held various leadership positions at Vical Incorporated before Amylin. Her experience beyond the med-tech field includes serving as vice president of HR for Father Joe’s Villages and Breg, Inc.

Bacino earned her bachelor of arts at UC Davis and completed coursework in a master’s of administration program at San Diego State University.

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Gerald Joyce, MD, PhD

Senior Vice President, Chief Science Officer

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Gerald Joyce is senior vice president, chief science officer, and professor in the Jack H. Skirball Center for Chemical Biology and Proteomics. He provides leadership in developing and implementing Salk’s overall scientific strategy, as well as overseeing research operations in support of this strategy.

Joyce began his scientific career at Salk as a PhD student and then a postdoctoral scholar and returned as a faculty member in 2017. His research program focuses on the development of novel RNA and DNA enzymes and their potential application in clinical diagnostics and therapeutics. His research has led to the development of the first self-replicating RNA enzyme that is capable of exponential growth and evolution.

From 2014 to 2021, Joyce served as the director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF). He has served previously as dean of the faculty at Scripps Research, as chair of the JASON scientific advisory group for US national security, and as a member of the Technology Advisory Council of BP.

Joyce graduated with a BA from the University of Chicago in 1978 and both an MD and PhD from the University of California San Diego in 1984. He completed his postgraduate medical training at Mercy Hospital in San Diego and postdoctoral research training at the Salk Institute.

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Julia Miller

General Counsel

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Julia Miller is the General Counsel of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She joined the Institute in January, 2010 and advises on a wide range of legal matters associated with the administration and management of the institute and in support of the scientific research mission, including contracts, intellectual property protection and technology transfer, legal proceedings, corporate governance, nonprofit, insurance, risk management and employment matters.

Miller serves as Corporate Secretary and is the management liaison for the Governance Committee of the Board, working with the Chair to manage the Committee’s responsibilities under its charter.

Prior to joining the institute, Miller was an attorney in the San Diego office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, practicing in the corporate department and, earlier in her career, in litigation. While at Paul Hastings, she focused on a wide range of business transactions and intellectual property matters for life science and technology clients. Miller has experience in intellectual property due diligence in merger and acquisition transactions and strategic counseling on various patent, trade secret and corporate matters. She also has represented clients in patent infringement litigation, patent license disputes and trade secret theft claims.

Miller holds a bachelor's degree in Cell Biology & Biochemistry from U.C. San Diego and a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Boston University.

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Bryan Robinson, PhD

Vice President, External Relations

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Bryan Robinson is the Salk Institute’s vice president of External Relations. He oversees the Institute’s stewardship, faculty relations, philanthropy, communications and community engagement.

Prior to Salk, Robinson served as the vice president for advancement and a senior member of the president’s executive committee at The Jackson Laboratory, an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Robinson also previously served as president of the UNCP Foundation, vice chancellor for advancement at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, senior assistant vice president and interim vice president at the University of Louisville, senior director of development and campaign planning at Indiana University, and a state government appointee in Indiana.

Robinson grew up in Kentucky and was the first in his family to attend college. He earned his undergraduate degree in pre-law studies and his master’s degree in education administration at the University of Louisville. He earned a PhD in education and social change at Bellarmine University, including field research on the impact of poverty on child and youth development at the University of Roehampton in London, UK.

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Kim Witmer

Senior Vice President, Finance & Administration

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Kim Witmer is Senior Vice President, Finance & Administration of the Salk Institute. She oversees financial and administrative activities of the Salk, including financial reporting and treasury functions, research administration, annual budgets, procurement, human resources, facilities/security, and endowment/investment management.

Witmer also acts as past President of AIRI, the Association of Independent Research Institutes, as well as serving on AIRI’s Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee. AIRI brings together nearly 100 independent, not-for-profit biomedical and behavioral research institutes whose mission is to enhance the ability of its members to improve human health and advance knowledge.

Additionally, Witmer served as Chief Financial Officer of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM), and currently holds a position on SCRM’s Administrative Council as the Salk representative.

Prior to joining the Salk, Witmer worked for the international accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. She is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a BS in business administration from San Diego State University.

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Mallory Zaslav

Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Salk’s Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Mallory Zaslav has led the creation and growth of the Institute’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team since its inception in 2018, guiding institutional strategies and implementing impact-driven initiatives related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

With a passion for ensuring myriad perspectives and voices are heard and represented, she has been instrumental in successfully spearheading a wide-range of DEI efforts designed to meaningfully advance Salk’s commitment to fostering an engaging, collaborative and inclusive campus community that betters humanity through its values-based scientific mission.

Highlights of her tenure include: advocating for Salk’s membership in the National Academies of Science, Engineering & Medicine’s four-year Action Collaborative on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in Higher Education; overseeing the establishment of campus affinity groups; leading the effort to hire the Institute’s first organizational ombuds, a role focused on being an impartial, neutral, and confidential advocate for fairness and equity; leading the development and execution of the inaugural campus climate survey designed to understand the experiences and perceptions of the working, learning and training environment at Salk; as well as developing a range of programming that supports organizational cultural evolution.

Prior to leading the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team, Mallory led the Institute’s Human Resources Department, which she joined in a senior-level capacity in 2009, after six years in the professional services sector. She holds an MBA in Human Resources Administration and became a member of The State Bar of California in 2002 after earning her Juris Doctor.

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