November 10, 2009

Salk recruits three top scientists in Immunobiology, Biophotonics and Neuroscience

Salk News

Salk recruits three top scientists in Immunobiology, Biophotonics and Neuroscience

LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has recruited three assistant professors who exemplify the next generation of leading international scientists hired to forge new research territory and to build on existing investigative areas at the Institute.

Bjorn Lillemeier joins the Salk’s Nomis Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis where he will study the organization of plasma membranes and their contribution to signal transduction in T-cells. In the body, T-cells play an integral part in regulating the immune system’s activity while attacking virus-infected cells, foreign and cancer cells.

Lillemeier will also conduct some of his work using high-resolution fluorescence microscopy in the Institute’s Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center, established last year with a $20 million grant by the Waitt Family Foundation. Better understanding how T-cell responses are controlled in the development and diseased stages could identify new targets for the manipulation of T-cell function.

Originally from Germany, Lillemeier received his master’s and doctorate degrees from London’s Cancer Research UK before conducting his postdoctoral research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute & Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University. He is the recipient of several awards, including a fellowship to the Human Frontier Science Program.

Lillemeier is joined in the Salk’s Nomis Center by Ye Zheng, who studies how regulatory T-cells maintain immune system tolerance to prevent autoimmune diseases. Coming from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Zheng’s goal is to tease apart how these regulatory T-cells are generated and maintained so that new therapeutic approaches can be developed for a wide range of autoimmune diseases.

A native of China, Zheng is a graduate of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Peking University and Columbia University, where he received a master’s and doctorate degrees in Philosophy before conducting a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is the recipient of the Cancer Research Institute Fellowship and the John S. Newberry Prize. Both Zheng and Lillemeier joined Salk on Nov. 1.

Neuroscientist Sreekanth Chalasani, who officially joins Salk on Dec. 1, applies a combination of genetics, functional imaging and behavioral analysis to study how the C. elegans worm’s nervous system responds to changes in the environment, such as when food is in short supply. Recruited from Rockefeller University, Chalasani’s work in the Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory will provide new insights into how complex neural circuits process information and guide behavior.

He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his doctorate degree in Neuroscience, and the National Center for Biological Sciences in India, his native country. Chalasani has also received several awards, including a fellowship from the Damon Runyon Cancer Foundation

“We are pleased to welcome each of these gifted junior faculty members to the Salk Institute,” says Salk President William R. Brody. “They represent the pioneering and risk-taking spirit that is essential for new scientific discoveries. Their research will both strengthen and diversify our efforts in Immunology, Biophotonics and Neurobiology – all key directions for the Salk Institute.”

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

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