January 29, 2008

Trustee Donates $11.5 Million to the Salk Institute

Salk News

Trustee Donates $11.5 Million to the Salk Institute

La Jolla, CA – A gift of $11.5 million has been received on behalf of the Nomis Foundation, a European foundation being established by G.H. “Heini” Thyssen, a long-time friend and Trustee of the Salk Institute, to fund appointments for new investigators specialized in microbial pathogenesis and viral and cellular immunology. The gift, which will launch the Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis program, fulfills a critical component of the Institute’s strategic scientific plan.

“The Salk Institute is enormously appreciative of Heini’s commitment and generosity,” said Irwin Jacobs, Sc.D., Chairman of the Salk’s Board of Trustees. “Funding for this important scientific initiative will enable Salk scientists to make major contributions toward deciphering the cellular and molecular underpinnings of microbial pathogenesis and immunological deficiencies as well as understanding the role of inflammation in infectious diseases.

“The opportunity created by this most generous gift to recruit new scientists who will combine their expertise with that of existing faculty will create a critical mass of investigators that will allow the Salk Institute to contribute in entirely new ways to combating human disease,” said Salk Interim President, Nobel laureate Roger Guillemin, M.D., Ph.D. “Additionally, the in-depth study of inflammation has many crossover links to other areas of research, creating opportunities for synergistic benefits.”

“Heini has been a Salk Trustee since 1998. He has maintained a close friendship with the faculty for many years and we are delighted that his continued support will allow us to do some very exciting science in the area of infectious diseases, a major global health challenge,” said John Young, Ph.D., Chair of the Salk Institute faculty.

The Nomis foundation is being established to engage in and support basic research programs and projects in the medical and other selected fields where independent research with the highest quality and motivation can be undertaken. This first major gift goes to the Salk as its faculty and leadership once again join forces to strive for excellence.

Under the Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis program, scientists at Salk will take a multi-pronged approach to conducting research on the pathophysiology of disease that arise from chronic infections, and will seek to understand the role of the immune system in preventing microbially induced disease. The new principal investigators will also work closely with a number of current Salk Institute scientists who are studying the molecular basis of cancer, obesity, and heart disease as well as those studying innate immunity, the first line of defense; and adaptive immunity, the sustained immunity to fight pathogens.

Primary Research Goals of the Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis program:

  1. To understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis.
  2. To understand the roles of innate and adaptive immunity in microbial infections (e.g., viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections).
  3. To identify the repertoire of host cellular machineries exploited by viruses such as HIV and adenoviruses for viral replication as well as those which act as defense mechanisms to limit virus infections.
  4. To understand the vital role of inflammatory processes in chronic microbial infections and major acquired diseases (such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer).

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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