Executive Leadership Team
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.
Vice President, Human ResourcesRead Biography
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.
Senior Vice President, Chief Science OfficerRead Biography
Martin Hetzer is the Salk Institute’s Senior Vice President and Chief Science Officer. He provides leadership in developing and implementing Salk’s overall scientific strategy, as well as overseeing research operations in support of this strategy.
Hetzer also holds the Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation Chair and is a professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory. As a researcher, he has garnered such accolades as the National Institutes of Health Transformative Research award; the Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging; and the American Society of Cell Biology’s Early Career Life Science award. He was named an Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar in Aging, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar and a Pew Scholar.
The Hetzer lab applies genomics, proteomics and advanced imaging biology techniques to pose questions about how the human genome is organized inside a cell’s nucleus. He was among the first to show that structural proteins of the nucleus play a direct role in changing gene expression during normal and pathological development as well as cancer. Together with his team he also discovered long-lived proteins (LLPs) in the nucleus, which exhibit no or very little protein turnover in the adult brain. The functional decline of LLPs could be a major contributor to age-related changes in the survival of nerve cells. A major focus of the lab is to understand what allows LLPs to stay intact throughout an organism’s entire lifespan. In people with neurodegenerative diseases, it appears that LLPs in older cells lead to the decline of the nucleus. Understanding why this happens is the first step to potentially preventing and treating diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. He will continue to serve as principal investigator for his lab.
Hetzer was born in Vienna, Austria, where he earned his doctorate in biochemistry and genetics from the Vienna Biocenter. He then moved to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, where he pursued his postdoctoral work. He was recruited to the Salk Institute in 2003.
General CounselRead Biography
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.
Vice President, External RelationsRead Biography
Rebecca Newman oversees private philanthropy, communications, and event-related activities for the entire Institute. Since her arrival in 2008, Salk has seen an annual net increase in event profits, a historic fundraising cycle and exciting community engagement through events such as Explore Salk, the Salk Science & Music Series, Salk’s Women & Science series, Symphony at Salk and numerous others. In addition to leading her team to increase private giving by 40 percent, Newman was instrumental in guiding Salk’s first major fundraising campaign to support scientific research, which secured $360 million. Newman has more than 30 years of corporate and nonprofit financial endowment development and capital campaign experience.
Prior to joining Salk, she was Associate Vice Chancellor of Development at the University of California, San Diego, where she executed the historic conclusion of the university’s capital campaign by exceeding its $1 billion goal.
She has served as national president of the United Jewish Communities, national chair for the United Jewish Appeal Women’s Campaign, campaign chair and president of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego and board member of the Jewish Community Foundation. Her long history of volunteerism includes helping design, fund and implement welfare and relief programs in Argentina, Cuba, Israel and the republics of the former Soviet Union.
A native of Chicago, Newman has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Michigan.
Senior Vice President, Finance & AdministrationRead Biography
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.
Vice President, Equity & InclusionRead Biography
Salk’s Vice President, Equity & Inclusion, Mallory Zaslav has led the creation and growth of the Institute’s Office of Equity & Inclusion 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 Office of Equity & Inclusion, 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.