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Salk News


Salk’s Xin Jin receives McKnight Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award

LA JOLLA—Xin Jin, an associate professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, has been selected as one of four scientists to receive the McKnight Memory and Cognitive Disorders award from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience to study how the brain learns, remembers and executes actions. The award, which comprises $300,000 over three years, includes participation in the annual McKnight Conference on Neuroscience.


To repair DNA damage, plants need good contractors

LA JOLLA—When a building is damaged, a general contractor often oversees various subcontractors—framers, electricians, plumbers and drywall hangers—to ensure repairs are done in the correct order and on time.


Salk’s Janelle Ayres awarded $1.8 million by NOMIS Foundation for novel research on mechanisms to promote health

LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres has been awarded $1.8 million over two years by the NOMIS Foundation to study health as an active process in which microbes—including the trillions of microorganisms that call the human body home—initiate interactions that promote the health of the host.


Salk Institute earns Charity Navigator’s highest rating for eighth consecutive time

LA JOLLA—For the eighth consecutive time, the Salk Institute’s strong financial health and continuing commitment to accountability and transparency have earned it a coveted 4-star (out of 4 stars) rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity and nonprofit evaluator.


Trio of Salk scientists named among most highly cited researchers in the world

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker and Rusty Gage have once again been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters). The list selects researchers for “exceptional research performance” demonstrated by the production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for field and year. Additionally, among the 4,058 researchers named as Highly Cited, Ecker is one of 194 researchers appearing in two separate categories: “plant and animal science,” as well as “molecular biology and genetics.”


Nicola Allen receives $2.5 million Chan Zuckerberg Initiative early career award

LA JOLLA—Nicola Allen, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, has received a five-year, $2.5 million Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), as part of a $51.95 million effort launching the CZI Neurodegeneration Challenge Network. This new network brings together experimental scientists from diverse research fields—neuroscience, cell biology, biochemistry, immunology and genomics—along with computational biologists and physicians, to understand the underlying causes of disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and ALS.


Maintaining the unlimited potential of stem cells

LA JOLLA—Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are the very definition of being full of potential, given that they can become any type of cell in the body. Once they start down any particular path toward a type of tissue, they lose their unlimited potential. Scientists have been trying to understand why and how this happens in order to create regenerative therapies that can, for example, coax a person’s own cells to replace damaged or diseased organs.


To detect new odors, fruit fly brains improve on a well-known computer algorithm

LA JOLLA—It might seem like fruit flies would have nothing in common with computers, but new research from the Salk Institute reveals that the two identify novel information in similar ways. The work, which appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on December 3, 2018, not only sheds light on an important neurobiological problem—how organisms detect new odors—but could also improve algorithms for novelty detection in computer science.


Salk scientist Ronald Evans named 2018 AAAS Fellow

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Ronald Evans, who is also director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has been a named a 2018 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. In particular, the AAAS acknowledges his discoveries on steroid and orphan receptor signaling, revealing a “treasure trove” of both known and novel branches of physiology, metabolism and disease, according to the citation.


Why screen time can disrupt sleep

LA JOLLA—For most, the time spent staring at screens—on computers, phones, iPads—constitutes many hours and can often disrupt sleep. Now, Salk Institute researchers have pinpointed how certain cells in the eye process ambient light and reset our internal clocks, the daily cycles of physiological processes known as the circadian rhythm. When these cells are exposed to artificial light late into the night, our internal clocks can get confused, resulting in a host of health issues.


Researchers report new methods to identify Alzheimer’s drug candidates that have anti-aging properties

LA JOLLA—Old age is the greatest risk factor for many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and cancer. Geroprotectors are a recently identified class of anti-aging compounds. New Salk research has now identified a unique subclass of these compounds, dubbed geroneuroprotectors (GNPs), which are AD drug candidates and slow the aging process in mice.


Salk awarded $19.2 million by the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative to study Alzheimer’s and aging in the brain

LA JOLLA—A team of Salk Institute researchers led by President Rusty Gage has been awarded $19.2 million over eight years by the American Heart Association-Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment to investigate mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease and aging-related cognitive decline and uncover new therapies. This bold venture will comprehensively analyze interactions between five areas key to brain health: proteins, genes, metabolism, inflammation and epigenetics.


Genetic “whodunnit” for cancer gene solved

LA JOLLA—Long thought to suppress cancer by slowing cellular metabolism, the protein complex AMPK also seemed to help some tumors grow, confounding researchers. Now, Salk Institute researchers have solved the long-standing mystery around why AMPK can both hinder and help cancer.


Clodagh O’Shea receives Allen Distinguished Investigator award to study genome

LA JOLLA—Clodagh O’Shea, a professor in Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar, has been selected as a recipient of The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group’s Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) program. She will be awarded $1.5 million over three years to conduct research into how DNA and its associated proteins (known collectively as chromatin) are packaged in the nucleus of cells. The work has implications for better understanding not only a range of diseases but also the fundamentals of human biology.


Salk mourns the passing of immunology titan Melvin Cohn, PhD, founding fellow of the Salk Institute and a pioneer in the field of gene regulation

LA JOLLA—Salk Professor Melvin Cohn, titan of immune system biology and a pioneering researcher in the field of gene regulation, passed away on October 23, 2018, in San Diego, California, at the age of 96.


Salk scientists advance ultrasound technology for neurological therapy

LA JOLLA—The emerging technology of sonogenetics—a technique where cells are controlled by sound—offers the potential to one day replace pharmaceutical drugs or invasive surgical treatments for neurological conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease or posttraumatic stress disorder.


Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte one of TIME magazine’s “50 Most Influential People in Health Care” for 2018

LA JOLLA—Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has been named one of TIME magazine’s 50 most influential people in healthcare for his scientific innovations in addressing the shortage of human organs for transplant. The list, which is curated by TIME’s health reporters and editors, recognizes people who changed the state of healthcare in America this year, and bear watching for what they do next.


Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain “plasticity”

LA JOLLA—When we’re born, our brains have a great deal of flexibility. Having this flexibility to grow and change gives the immature brain the ability to adapt to new experiences and organize its interconnecting web of neural circuits. As we age, this quality, called "plasticity," lessens.


Salk awarded Keeping It Modern grant by Getty Foundation

LA JOLLA—As part of its Keeping It Modern initiative, the Getty Foundation has awarded the Salk Institute a $200,000 grant to support the conservation of Salk’s celebrated concrete facades. The grant project will take place over the next five years. The announcement is part of more than $1.7 million in architectural conservation grants announced by the foundation in 2018 for 11 significant 20th century buildings.


Dannielle Engle, rising star in pancreatic cancer research, to join Salk Institute

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute is honored to welcome Dannielle Engle back to Salk as an assistant professor in the Salk Cancer Center. She is currently a senior fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, where she focuses on the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Engle conducted research in the lab of Salk Professor Geoffrey Wahl for six years as part of her doctoral program at UC San Diego.