November 29, 2006

Salk scientists named 2006 AAAS Fellows

Professors Sejnowski and Verma chosen for pioneering efforts in computational neuroscience and gene therapy

Salk News

Salk scientists named 2006 AAAS Fellows

Professors Sejnowski and Verma chosen for pioneering efforts in computational neuroscience and gene therapy

La Jolla, CA – Professors Terrence J. Sejnowski and Inder Verma have been awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow. Election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers.

Sejnowski, Ph.D., who heads the Crick-Jacobs Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been selected for his “outstanding contributions in computational neuroscience and for founding Neural Computation.”

Sejnowski, who joined the Salk in 1988, tries to understand the computational resources of brains and to build linking principles from brain to behavior using computational models. He pursues his goal by combining both experimental and modeling techniques to study the biophysical properties of the connections between brain cells and the population dynamics of large networks of neurons. He recently showed that the release of chemical signals from nerves isn’t restricted to synapses the ends of nerve fibers in ciliary ganglia, as neuroscientists had previously believed, but is mostly released outside the expected region. Neural Computation, which he founded in 1989 shortly after arriving at the Salk Institute, is the leading journal in neural information processing in artificial and biological systems.

Verma, Ph.D., a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics and American Cancer Society Professor for Molecular Biology, has been selected for his “pioneering use of lentiviral vectors to introduce foreign genes efficiently into brain, liver, muscle, retina, hematopoietic, and embryonic stem cells.”

Verma joined the Salk in 1974 and quickly became one of the world’s leading authorities on the development of viruses for gene therapy vectors. He and his colleagues established the use of stripped down versions of viruses, HIV in particular, that can deliver genes to non-dividing cells, which constitute the majority of cells in our bodies. He has used these vectors successfully to deliver the clotting factor gene to laboratory animals, to reduce the amount of an enzyme that is crucial for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and to transfer a therapeutic gene to retinal cells to mice with an inborn deficiency.

This year’s AAAS Fellows were announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on Nov. 24, 2006. New Fellows will be honored on Feb. 17 during the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the Steering Groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS Chief Executive Officer.

Each Steering Group then reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

The Council is the policymaking body of the Association, chaired by the AAAS President, and consisting of the members of the Board of Directors, the Retiring Section Chairs, delegates from each electorate and each regional division, and two delegates from the National Association of Academies of Science.

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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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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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