December 21, 2017
Nobel Laureate plans to step down at the end of Summer, Board of Trustees to commence search for successor
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.
“Being named to lead the Salk Institute unquestionably has been an honor of my life and this decision did not come without a great deal of thought,” said Blackburn. “At this stage in my career and life, I’ve concluded that my energies will be best devoted to wider issues of science policy and ethics—issues in which I have had a deep and longstanding interest—and spent advocating for measures I feel are critical to supporting ongoing scientific research and discovery worldwide. That’s where my passion has evolved over many years, and also where I feel I can make the most impactful contribution at the broadest level.
“For Salk, I believe this also is the right time to identify a new leader who can build on our many accomplishments over the last two years and ensure the positive momentum continues,” she added. “Indeed, experiencing the progress we have made has been quite gratifying. I am confident the Institute is well-positioned to continue advancing the bold vision we have articulated and chart an exciting course forward, with the support of our wonderful board of trustees and leadership of our chair Dan Lewis.”
“As Salk’s president, Elizabeth has made numerous, invaluable contributions to the Institute, including launching the highly successful SalkNext50 strategic planning effort, helping to enhance our financial strength, initiating several organizational improvements designed to ensure the Institute’s resources are fully optimized and, of course, championing a remarkable cadre of scientists as they achieved numerous scientific breakthroughs,” said Lewis. “We are grateful for her leadership and her commitment to ensuring the next several months build on that progress and that we are able to effect a smooth transition.”
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist and pioneering molecular biologist, Blackburn was named Salk’s president in November of 2015. Prior to that, she served as a Salk nonresident fellow. Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for discovering the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving genetic information, and for co-discovering telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomere ends.
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Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk’s mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer’s, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin.