April 30, 2024

Prebys Foundation awards $1 million to support Salk Institute’s research and diversity efforts

Salk News

Prebys Foundation awards $1 million to support Salk Institute’s research and diversity efforts

LA JOLLA—As part of its $7 million “Prebys Research Heroes” program, the Prebys Foundation awarded Salk Professor Tatyana Sharpee and Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle each $500,000 to fund their research. The grants will be dispensed over two years and are part of 14 grants the foundation awarded to support women pursuing research careers in San Diego.

“We are deeply grateful to the Prebys Foundation for these generous grants,” says Salk President Gerald Joyce. “Dannie and Tanya are both highly deserving recipients for the critical research each is pursuing. The Salk community congratulates these brilliant scientists, and we look forward to seeing the advances their teams make with this investment.”

Tatyana Sharpee and Dannielle Engle
Tatyana Sharpee and Dannielle Engle.
Click here for a high-resolution image.
Credit: Salk Institute

Engle is an assistant professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory and holder of the Helen McLoraine Chair. She and her team investigate new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Having lost close family members to pancreatic cancer, Engle draws upon her personal and scientific passion as well as her unique expertise in devising laboratory models of pancreatic cancer based on tumor samples from individual patents. She uses stem-cell techniques to create more accurate models of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, together with analytical methods to identify biomarkers that unambiguously differentiate between these two conditions.

“It is a thrill and affirming to be recognized by the Prebys Foundation,” says Engle. “San Diego is home to a great many talented women scientists, so to be one of 14 selected to receive this grant is an honor.”

Sharpee is a professor in Salk’s Computational Neurobiology and Integrative Biology laboratories and holder of the Edwin K. Hunter Chair. Her research team uses advanced computational approaches to unravel how the brain works. They recently pioneered the use of hyperbolic geometry to better understand how the brain organizes the perception of odors to provide the sense of smell. Revealing the workings of these and other sensory modalities could help lead to new treatments and brain-machine interfaces for patients with sensory disorders that are the result of stroke, dementia, or schizophrenia.

“I am grateful to the Prebys Foundation for selecting me as a recipient of this generous award,” Sharpee says. “This support comes at a critical time for my group. It will allow us to build a convincing case of the main principles according to which the brain works, and how brain aging can be slowed.”

Both Engle and Sharpee have committed to allocating part of their funds to the Salk Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) and Salk’s Heithoff-Brody High School Scholars program, which aim to inspire the next generation of scientists from diverse backgrounds.

About Prebys Foundation:
Prebys Foundation is the largest independent private foundation in San Diego a unique tri-national area encompassing communities from San Diego, Tijuana, and the Kumeyaay Nation. The foundation works to create an inclusive, equitable, and dynamic future for all San Diegans. Prebys advances excellence and shared opportunity through investments in groundbreaking institutions, ideas, and people to ensure more people in the region are financially secure, healthy, empowered, and connected. For more information about the Prebys Foundation and the Prebys Research Heroes Program, visit prebysfdn.org.

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
Unlocking the secrets of life itself is the driving force behind the Salk Institute. Our team of world-class, award-winning scientists pushes the boundaries of knowledge in areas such as neuroscience, cancer research, aging, immunobiology, plant biology, computational biology, and more. Founded by Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, the Institute is an independent, nonprofit research organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature, and fearless in the face of any challenge. Learn more at www.salk.edu.

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