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Salk News


Call-and-response circuit tells neurons when to grow synapses

LA JOLLA—Brain cells called astrocytes play a key role in helping neurons develop and function properly, but there’s still a lot scientists don’t understand about how astrocytes perform these important jobs. Now, a team of scientists led by Associate Professor Nicola Allen has found one way that neurons and astrocytes work together to form healthy connections called synapses. This insight into normal astrocyte function could help scientists better understand disorders linked to problems with neuronal development, including autism spectrum disorders. The study was published September 8, 2021, in the journal eLife.


Salk appoints neuroscientist Pamela Maher as Research Professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed neuroscientist Pamela Maher to the position of Research Professor, a non-tenure faculty position, to reflect her achievements conducting groundbreaking research on Alzheimer’s disease. Maher, who has been a senior staff scientist at Salk since 2004, will continue her work screening for compounds that could slow or stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Two of her compounds are currently undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.


How the brain ignores distracting information to coordinate movements

LA JOLLA—As you read this article, touch receptors in your skin are sensing your environment. Your clothes and jewelry, the chair you’re sitting on, the computer keyboard or mobile device you’re using, even your fingers as they brush one another unintentionally—each touch activates collections of nerve cells. But, unless a stimulus is particularly unexpected or required to help you orient your own movements, your brain ignores many of these inputs.


Salk scientists reveal most commonly mutated gene in all cancers

LA JOLLA—For the past fifteen years, cancer researchers have been using DNA sequencing technology to identify the gene mutations that cause different forms of cancer. Now, Salk Assistant Professor Edward Stites and his team of computational scientists have combined gene mutation information with cancer prevalence data to reveal the genetic basis of cancer in the entire population of cancer patients in the United States.


Salk team launches phase 1 clinical trial for Alzheimer’s therapy

LA JOLLA—The investigational Alzheimer’s drug CMS121, developed and studied at Salk over the last fifteen years, has now moved into a phase 1 clinical trial to evaluate its safety in humans. Salk Research Professor Pamela Maher and Bill Raschke of Virogenics, Inc., will receive $4.5 million over two years from the National Institute of Aging to support the trial, and they expect the first doses to be administered to healthy volunteers in early 2022. In mice, CMS121 reverses signs of aging in the brain and prevents the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


Salk teams advance efforts to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders, via NIH brain atlas

LA JOLLA—It takes billions of cells to make a human brain, and scientists have long struggled to map this complex network of neurons. Now, dozens of research teams around the country, led in part by Salk scientists, have made inroads into creating an atlas of the mouse brain as a first step toward a human brain atlas.


Salk Assistant Professor Graham McVicker receives Genomic Innovator Award

LA JOLLA—Salk Assistant Professor Graham McVicker has been awarded a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Genomic Innovator Award, which supports early-career scientists who conduct innovative, creative research in genomics. The award, which provides $2.85 million over five years, is in recognition of McVicker’s efforts using computational and experimental approaches to investigate how human genetic diversity leads to metabolic, cardiovascular, autoimmune and other diseases.


Peter Adams and Gerald Shadel awarded $13 million from NIH to study aging and liver cancer

LA JOLLA—Sanford Burnham Prebys Professor Peter D. Adams, who directs the Aging, Cancer and Immuno-oncology Program, and Salk Institute Professor Gerald Shadel, who directs the San Diego Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, have been awarded a grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging for $13 million, funding a five-year project to explore the connection between aging and liver cancer.


Salk neuroscientist Kay Tye selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Kay Tye has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, joining a prestigious group of more than 250 HHMI investigators across the United States who are tackling important scientific questions.


Statement on the Current Operations at the Salk Institute

The Salk Institute is currently closed to the public. The Institute continues to monitor the status of the pandemic and expects to reopen the Salk campus at a later date. Please check back for updates.


The Salk Institute and Sanford Burnham Prebys license ULK1/2 inhibitors to Endeavor BioMedicines for treatment of cancer

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute, along with Sanford Burnham Prebys, have signed an exclusive licensing agreement with California-based Endeavor BioMedicines for an intellectual property portfolio relating to cancer therapeutics and diagnostics that target ULK1/2, a protein involved in cellular recycling, jointly developed by researchers at Salk and Sanford Burnham Prebys. The negotiations were led by the Salk Office of Technology Development and the Sanford Burnham Prebys Business Development Office.


Salk plant researchers launch collaboration to breed carbon-capturing sorghum

LA JOLLA—Researchers at the Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) have established a five-year, $6.2 million collaboration with Nadia Shakoor, principal investigator and senior research scientist and her team at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to identify and develop sorghum plants that can better capture and store atmospheric carbon.


Research reveals how subtle changes in a microRNA may lead to ALS

LA JOLLA—When people think about the connection between genes and disease, they often envision something that works like a light switch: When the gene is normal, the person carrying it does not have the disease. If it gets mutated, a switch is flipped, and then they do have it.


Philanthropic donations to Salk Institute exceed record-breaking $100M in FY21

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today that philanthropic donors gave more than $100 million to support bold scientific research in fiscal year 2021 (ending in June). The amount is a new record in philanthropic gifts for the Institute, eclipsing the previous record gift total in 2019 by more than $11 million.


Axel Nimmerjahn leads research team awarded $11 million by the U19 Team-Research BRAIN Circuit Program

LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Axel Nimmerjahn is leading a research team that has been awarded $11.2 million by The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, an effort that aims to investigate overarching principles of brain circuit function, including sensation, perception, decision-making and motor control. Nimmerjahn will lead an interdisciplinary five-year project investigating how astrocytes, star-shaped cells in the brain, process and modulate signals from neurons to better understand overall brain function.


Salk Professor Janelle Ayres named inaugural recipient of the Salk Institute Legacy Chair

LA JOLLA—Professor Janelle Ayres has been recognized for her contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named the inaugural recipient of the Salk Institute Legacy Chair, effective July 1, 2021.


Salk promotes Diana Hargreaves to associate professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted Diana Hargreaves to the rank of associate professor for her notable contributions in epigenetic regulation, which make specific regions of our DNA accessible to the machinery of cells. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.


Benefits of time-restricted eating depend on age and sex

LA JOLLA—Time-restricted eating (TRE), a dietary regimen that restricts eating to specific hours, has garnered increased attention in weight-loss circles. A new study by Salk scientists further shows that TRE confers multiple health benefits besides weight loss. The study also shows that these benefits may depend on sex and age.


Salk receives INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute’s Education Outreach program has received the 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Salk will be featured, along with 78 other recipients, in the September 2021 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.


Researchers identify neurons involved in overdose deaths

LA JOLLA—It’s long been known that opioid overdose deaths are caused by disrupted breathing, but the actual mechanism by which these drugs suppress respiration was not understood. Now, a new study by Salk scientists has identified a group of neurons in the brainstem that plays a key role in this process.