January 29, 2021
LA JOLLA—As we endure a global viral pandemic, our appreciation for health and immunity has never been greater. Now, thanks to a generous gift from the NOMIS Foundation, Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis will receive $9.5 million to grow and expand, while continuing to be a leader in health and immunity research.
Protection against viruses and other pathogens relies on a properly functioning immune system, as well as the ability of our tissues to maintain healthy states in the face of infection. However, dysregulated or chronic inflammation underlies tissue damage, as seen in severe COVID-19 cases and other immune-mediated diseases like autoimmunity, cancer, neurodegeneration, and diabetes. Inflammation is also a critical accelerator of aging.
“Virtually every organ in our body is naturally infiltrated by immune cells, so there is a tremendous need to understand how the immune cells ‘talk to’ the other cells in these organs and promote tissue health or, conversely, disease,” says Professor Susan Kaech, director of Salk’s NOMIS Center. “NOMIS Center investigators are innovating new solutions for surviving infectious disease and developing long-term immunity, combating cancer with our immune system, and treating autoimmunity. This new funding by the NOMIS Foundation will allow us to train young scientists and recruit new faculty working at the frontiers of health and inflammation.”
The NOMIS Center takes prides in training the next generation of scientific leaders. The prestigious NOMIS Center Postdoctoral Fellowship Program has supported the careers of many talented postdocs over the last decade, and $5 million of the new funding will endow the program indefinitely while funding three postdoctoral fellows annually to work on health and immunity research. The award will also support the recruitment of two new cross-disciplinary faculty members, an assistant professor and a Salk Fellow, to the NOMIS Center team to explore untapped areas of immunity and health.
Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage adds, “We are grateful to the NOMIS Foundation for their generous gift, which will have a lasting impact in supporting—and recruiting new talent to—Salk’s NOMIS Center. One of the next frontiers in science is to better understand how immunology and inflammation interact with other biological processes, and this new support will help Salk lead the charge.”
Jonas Salk, the founder of the Salk Institute, dedicated his life to improving human health and immunity through vaccination, like the polio vaccine that he created and was declared safe and protective in 1955. Salk had the vision to bring together pioneering scientists working in diverse areas that cut across fields to collaboratively discover new frontiers of biology. Salk’s NOMIS Center was founded in 2008 with funding from the NOMIS Foundation, a Swiss foundation. Research at the Center explores the molecular mechanisms that control tissue health during infection, the link between the microbiome and immune system, the development of long-term immunity, and the inflammatory processes that spin out of control in conditions such as autoimmunity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
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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.