LA JOLLA—Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory, is one of 22 researchers to be named a 2018 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Each scholar receives $300,000 over four years. Additionally, Navlakha is one of a subset of five Pew Scholars selected for support by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund, which focuses on investigating health challenges in the brain as it ages.
On June 11, 2018, Salk’s Board of Trustees met to discuss the findings of the Institute’s investigation into allegations against Dr. Inder Verma. Our commitment from the outset has been to undertake an investigatory process that is thorough and impartial and to take action as appropriate. Although we will not comment on the details of this confidential personnel matter, we wanted to share with you the outcome of this process.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has been ranked one of the top 5 nonprofit institutions in the world focused on the life sciences and one of the top 10 nonprofits generally, according to a report known as the Nature Index and released by Springer Nature on June 7, 2018. The rankings are based on Nature Index data from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017.
LA JOLLA—One of the many challenges in treating HIV is that the virus can lie dormant in cells, quietly evading immune detection until it suddenly roars to life without warning and begins replicating furiously. Salk Institute researchers discovered a small molecule called JIB-04 that destroys the HIV protein called Tat, responsible for revving up the virus.
LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres is one of 31 US finalists selected to compete for the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career researchers, the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. The Blavatnik National Awards recognize both the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented scientific and engineering researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions.
LA JOLLA—Defective energy production in old neurons might explain why our brains are so prone to age-related diseases. Salk researchers used a new method to discover that cells from older individuals had impaired mitochondria—the power stations of cells—and reduced energy production. A better understanding of the effects of aging on mitochondria could reveal more about the link between mitochondrial dysfunction and age-related brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has received $1.5 million for research into the cellular underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease from NANOS Co. Ltd. (“NANOS”), a company based in the Republic of Korea. The funds will establish a dedicated laboratory space called the NANOS Alzheimer’s Disease Stem Cell Suite, which will serve as a cell bank focused on Alzheimer’s. This cell bank will house both stem cells and somatic (body) cells from human donors, critical for analysis and testing of therapeutic drugs.
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute for Biological Studies announced the hiring of Steven Johnson as its Senior Director of Communications to manage the communications and multimedia relations teams and to serve as the communications liaison to the Salk President.
LA JOLLA—As part of its efforts to continuously attract and retain top talent, the Salk Institute has appointed neuroscientist Margarita Behrens to the newly created position of Research Professor, which carries non-tenure faculty status. Behrens, who has been a staff scientist in Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory (CNL) since 2009, will lead her own research group within the CNL, where she will carry out independent research projects and continue to collaborate on studies with the Institute’s other world-renowned neuroscience faculty.
LA JOLLA—More than 27 million people in the United States are living with type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the population ages and a growing percentage of people become overweight or obese, that number is expected to increase.
LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientist and professor Joanne Chory, one of the world’s foremost plant biologists, who is now leading efforts to combat global warming with plant-based solutions, has been awarded a 2018 Gruber Genetics Prize by the Gruber Foundation for her “groundbreaking work in identifying the basic regulatory and biochemical mechanisms underlying the development of plants.” She shares the $500,000 award with Elliot Meyerowitz of the California Institute of Technology.
LA JOLLA—Not all of your genome needs to be active at any given time. Some regions are prone to hopping around the genome in problematic ways if left unchecked; others code for genes that need to be turned off in certain cells or at certain times. One way that cells keep these genetic elements under control is with the chemical equivalent of a “do not use” sign. This chemical signal, called DNA methylation, is known to vary in different cell types or at different stages of cellular development, but the details of how cells regulate exactly where to put DNA methylation marks have remained unclear.
LA JOLLA—By creating multiple types of neurons from stem cells and observing how they interact, Salk scientists have developed a new way to study the connections between brain cells in the lab. Using the technique, which generates a partial model of the brain, the team showed how communication between neurons is altered in people with schizophrenia. The work appeared in Cell Stem Cell on May 3, 2018.
LA JOLLA—If 95 percent of your neighbors are chatty and outgoing, you probably know more about them than the 5 percent who are reclusive and shy. It’s similar for neuroscientists who study the striatum, a brain region associated with action control and learning: they know a lot more about the 95 percent of neurons that communicate with outside regions than the 5 percent that communicate only within the striatum.
LA JOLLA—For most people with hemophilia B, whose bodies can’t properly form blood clots, constant injections to replenish their clotting factors are a way of life. But now, Salk researchers have demonstrated in mice that hemophilia B can be treated for life with one single injection containing disease-free liver cells that can produce their missing clotting factor. The finding, published in the journal Cell Reports on May 1, 2018, could drastically change what it means to be diagnosed with hemophilia B, and could pave the way toward similar treatments for other, related genetic disorders.
LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an incredibly deadly brain cancer and presents a serious black box challenge. It’s virtually impossible to observe how these tumors operate in their natural environment and animal models don’t always provide good answers.
LA JOLLA—On Friday, April 20, 2018, the Salk Institute launched a new initiative called Conquering Cancer, to harness specific and emerging scientific strategies to tackle the five deadliest cancers: pancreatic, ovarian, lung, brain (glioblastoma) and triple-negative breast.
LA JOLLA—Many neurological disorders—Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, even depression—have lagged behind in new therapies. Because the brain is so complex, it can be difficult to discover new drugs and even when a drug is promising in animal models, it often doesn’t work for humans.
LA JOLLA—With forensic science facing mounting scrutiny as it plays an increasingly prominent role in the administration of justice, six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes. Their call to action appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of April 9, 2018.