November 4, 2019

Salk’s donors give record-breaking $89 million in FY19 to fuel scientific discoveries

Unprecedented philanthropic support will help accelerate discoveries in cancer, climate change, Alzheimer’s and more

Salk News


Salk’s donors give record-breaking $89 million in FY19 to fuel scientific discoveries

Unprecedented philanthropic support will help accelerate discoveries in cancer, climate change, Alzheimer’s and more

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today that it received more than $89 million from 1,204 individual donors and private grant makers in fiscal year 2019 (ending in June) to support the Institute’s world-renowned science. The amount is the most raised from private donors in the past decade and accounts for 49 percent of Salk’s FY19 revenue.

In addition, government partners (such as the National Institutes of Health) provided 41 percent of the Institute’s revenue through 39 new federal grants totaling more than $75 million to Salk researchers working in the areas of cancer, plant science, neuroscience, metabolism and others.

“The financial support we received this past year from donors and public agency partners has been impressive and critical for our mission,” says Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage. “Their investment in Salk research will assist the overall effort to advance important discoveries on some of the most challenging scientific issues of our time.”

“We are deeply grateful for the steadfast support and contributions of our philanthropic partners,” adds Vice President of External Relations Rebecca Newman. “In amounts large and small our supporters collectively made record-breaking contributions to the research pursued by Salk scientists. The discoveries uncovered in Salk labs will advance our understanding of the world.”

This financial support helped propel dozens of significant scientific discoveries made in Salk’s labs in the fiscal year, including developing a new gene therapy to decelerate the aging process; finding a cellular process that could help stop cancer before it begins; and uncovering why screen time can disrupt sleep.

Highlighting the Institute’s strong philanthropic support was an announcement that Salk would receive $35 million through The Audacious Project, a highly competitive program housed at the nonprofit TED, to fund Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI), led by Professor Joanne Chory. HPI is an innovative, scalable approach to fight climate change by optimizing a plant’s natural ability to capture carbon and adapt to diverse climate conditions. The initiative aims to grow plants with more robust and deeper roots that can store increased amounts of carbon underground for longer to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Donors through The Audacious Project include the Clara Wu and Joe Tsai Foundation, Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Genevieve and Steve Jurvetson, Rosamund Zander and Hansjörg Wyss for the Wyss Medical Foundation, Joe Gebbia and Isabelle Boemeke, and others. And already, Salk scientists are making progress in this area with a recently uncovered gene that regulates root systems.

Support from private philanthropy for the Institute’s work in neuroscience also included a $19.2 million grant awarded over eight years from the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment to investigate mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease and aging-related cognitive decline and uncover new therapies. An aging-related disorder that results in severe memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease represents a global health crisis with estimates suggesting that 130 million people will be affected by 2050. Salk’s bold venture will entail the multidisciplinary collaboration of 10 different labs to analyze interactions between five areas key to brain health: proteins, genes, metabolism, inflammation and epigenetics.

In the area of cancer, Salk Board of Trustees Chair, Dan Lewis, and his wife, Martina Lewis, gave $2 million in support of Salk’s Conquering Cancer Initiative. The initiative was launched just prior to the start of the 2019 fiscal year, on April 20, 2018, with the goal of funding foundational biological research combined with advanced biomedical technologies to overcome hard-to-kill tumors in five of the deadliest cancers, including breast (triple negative), brain (glioblastoma), pancreatic, lung and ovarian.

In addition, significant gifts encompassing important areas of innovation, research and need at the Institute were provided by organizations including the NOMIS Foundation, Ferring International, Inc. and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

“It’s exhilarating to live in this era of accelerated scientific innovation,” says the Institute’s Vice President and Chief Science Officer Martin Hetzer. “This year’s success has been a testament to the bold research pursued by Salk’s scientists, and I’m confident our curiosity, dedication and willingness to take risks will yield many more life-changing discoveries.”

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The Salk Institute For Biological Studies:

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.