November 30, 2006

Salk scientist wins 2007 McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award

Salk News

Salk scientist wins 2007 McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award

La Jolla, CA —Dr. Andrew Dillin, an assistant professor in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has been selected for the 2007 McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award. He will receive $300,000 over a three-year period to study “age-associated neuroprotection by insulin/IGF-1 signaling.”

Established in 1986 by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, the Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards support innovative efforts aimed at translating basic laboratory discoveries in neuroscience into clinical benefits for patients. The awards are highly competitive: Only six out of 196 applicants were selected this year.

Like most neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s disease usually appears late in life. Dillin’s hypothesis is that the aging body continually produces proteins prone to aggregation, eventually leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s. To understand the consequences of age-onset protein aggregation and disease, Dillin has taken a multi-pronged approach and established key collaborations with Salk researchers Roland Riek, Steve Heinemann, and post-doctoral fellow Ehud Cohen and is continuing his strong collaboration with Scripps scientist Jeffery W. Kelly.

He and his collaborators will examine how the worm Caenorhabditis elegans protects itself against toxic protein aggregation with age and will seek to evaluate whether the same protective mechanisms exist in mammals.

Dillin will also determine whether the same genetic pathways that regulate aging function to regulate protection against proteotoxicity. Ultimately, he will seek to identify the agent or agents implicated in age-related neurodegeneration. If successful, the work will generate preliminary data for an ongoing collaboration to probe the link between aging and the progressive degeneration of brain cells.

Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Dillin earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Nevada in Reno and his doctorate in molecular and cellular biology from the University of California at Berkeley. After completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of California in San Francisco, he was recruited to the Salk Institute in La Jolla. A faculty member since 2002, Dillin uses the tiny roundworm C. elegans to study the process of aging and age-related diseases.


The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent organization funded solely by The McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is led by a board of prominent neuroscientists from around the country. The McKnight Foundation has supported neuroscience research since 1977. The foundation established the Endowment Fund in 1986 to carry out one of the intentions of founder William L. McKnight (1887–1978). One of the early leaders of the 3M Company, he had a personal interest in memory and its diseases and wanted part of his legacy used to help find cures.

The Endowment Fund makes three types of awards each year. In addition to the Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards, there are the McKnight Scholar Awards that support neuroscientists in the early stages of their research careers; and the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards that provide seed money to develop technical inventions to advance brain research. Currently, two Salk researchers, Dr. Richard J. Krauzlis and Dr. Edward M. Callaway receive funding from the McKnight Technological Innovations in Neurosciences Award.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

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