Inside Salk - May 2011 - page 6

While biophotonics capabilities have
been expanding at
the
Salk Institute for several years, the science of manipulating light to investigate
biological functions took a giant leap forwardwhen the Institute launched the
Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center, made possible thanks to a landmark
$20million gift from theWaitt Foundation. Officially dedicated in February,
theWaitt Center serves as a state-of-the-art research hubwithin Salk, enabling
investigators from across many disciplines to gain unprecedented insight
into the inner workings of cells and tissues, probingmolecular mechanisms
of life at microscopic resolutions that not long ago were unimaginable. It
also ensures that the Institute remains at the forefront of this rapidly evolving
technology.
The center ismade up of two complementary parts that together provide
Salk investigators with state-of-the-art biophotonic and analysis technology
required to answer today’s key biological questions: a core facility and faculty
laboratories. The core facility provides state-of-the-art visualization and
analysis tools to Salk investigators from across many biological disciplines.
The faculty research labs housed within the Waitt Center are engaged in
both next-generation technology development and answering fundamental
life science problems through imaging-rich investigations.
“By putting these incredible tools in the hands of Salk investigators in an
interdisciplinary teamwork environment, breakthroughs are bound to happen,”
says
TedWaitt
, vice-chair of the Salk Institute board of trustees and chairman
of theWaitt Foundation.
Advanced biophotonics will allowSalk investigators to observe how single
molecules and cells function in real time, for instance, and provide visualiza-
tions of how living systems function at themolecular level. Researchers will
be able to watch the changes when a living cell malfunctions; how it turns
cancerous and responds to drug therapy; or how neurons in a living brain
respond to stress, exercise, learning and diet, to name just a few examples.
The aging process could be viewed as it happens at the cellular level.
“In the past, scientists were limited to snapshots of cells frozen in
time,” explains
James Fitzpatrick
, who joined Salk fromCarnegieMellon
University inDecember 2009 to direct the center’s core facility. “Now it is
possible to watch highly dynamic cellular processes, such as viruses invading
their host cell, in real time and at high spatial resolution.”
Beaming science forward
Perhaps themost important aspect of
the biophotonics core facility, however,
is that it encourages creativity by freeing
researchers from the responsibility
of costly investment in technology
for individual experiments.
More than 200 people attended the grand opening
of theWaitt AdvancedBiophotonicsCenter.
6
Lead Story
Inside Salk 05 |11
TedWaitt and Salk professor RonEvans
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