May 1, 2008

Waitt Family Foundation and Foundation President and Philanthropist Ted Waitt Award $20 Million Grant to Establish Advanced Biophotonics Center at the Salk Institute


Salk News

Waitt Family Foundation and Foundation President and Philanthropist Ted Waitt Award $20 Million Grant to Establish Advanced Biophotonics Center at the Salk Institute


La Jolla, CA – The Salk Institute today announced that it has received a $20 million grant from the Waitt Family Foundation. Ted Waitt is the President of the Waitt Family Foundation and the vice chairman of Salk’s Board of Trustees. The grant will fund the creation of an Advanced Biophotonics Center.

Funds from the grant will pay for the build-out of the Center at the Institute, salary support for new faculty members and senior technician specialists, and the development and acquisition of some of today’s most sophisticated imaging equipment.

“Ted’s vision and the contribution from the Waitt Family Foundation enables the Salk Institute to move ahead rapidly with a critical component of its strategic scientific plan,” said Irwin M. Jacobs, chairman of the Salk Board of Trustees. “The Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center will provide Salk with advanced tools and allow research scientists to advance biophotonics and its application to many areas of scientific discovery.”

The Center will house a convergence of technical advances in several areas: faster cameras, highly powerful microscopes, new light emitting dyes and enough computing power to handle live images occupying up to a terabyte of storage space, all of which allow scientists to detect single photons and record the interaction of molecules to study and understand their function in healthy and diseased cells.

The ability to clearly see cells’ minute inner workings will give Salk scientists an even deeper understanding of basic principles of biology and many diseases. This new knowledge, for example, could help explain why some cancer cells are resistant to therapy while others respond. It will also transform the way researchers analyze complex systems such as the brain, and revolutionize the way diseases are treated.

“This generous grant by the Waitt Family Foundation provides a major step to create a facility that will help researchers push the boundaries of science even further at Salk,” said Inder Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics. “The scientific expertise we will gather and the highly advanced instrumentation we will develop will enable our scientists to visually decipher the basic principles behind some of today’s most complicated diseases.”

In conjunction with the $20 million grant, the Salk Institute has agreed to establish the Waitt Challenge Grant, which is designed to inspire philanthropic contributions and challenge the Institute to raise up to $20 million that can be applied toward additional funding for the Advanced Biophotonics Center or any other restricted or unrestricted purpose at the Institute.

“The creation of an advanced biophotonics center has the potential to take Salk’s already phenomenal science to a new level, and the challenge grant has the potential to further cement Salk’s solid foundation,” said Ted Waitt.

The co-founder of Gateway, Inc., Waitt has gone on to form multiple enterprises since his retirement from the company. Among them: The Waitt Family Foundation, a non-profit grant making foundation; Avalon Capital Group, Inc., a private investment company; Avalon Pictures, an independent producer of historically accurate and entertaining motion pictures; and the Waitt Institute for Discovery, a non-profit operating foundation dedicated to the improvement of mankind’s knowledge through historical and scientific exploration.

“We are most grateful for the Waitt Family Foundation’s contribution toward this critical component of Salk’s forward-thinking initiatives,” said Salk Executive Vice President Marsha Chandler. “This grant serves as an extraordinary catalyst for Salk’s plan to build a comprehensive biophotonics program that leads technological advances in critical research areas.”

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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