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Salk News

What’s that smell? Scientists find a new way to understand odors

LA JOLLA—Every smell, from a rose to a smoky fire to a pungent fish, is composed of a mixture of odorant molecules that bind to protein receptors inside your nose. But scientists have struggled to understand exactly what makes each combination of odorant molecules smell the way it does or predict from its structure whether a molecule is pleasant, noxious or has no smell at all.

Salk’s donors give $48.5 million to support scientific innovation in FY18

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced today that it received more than $48 million from 1,100 individual donors and private grant makers in fiscal year 2018 to support the Institute’s groundbreaking science. In addition, government partners (e.g., the National Institutes of Health) provided 47 federal grants totaling more than $55 million to Salk researchers working in the areas of cancer, plant science, neuroscience, metabolism and others.

A switch to turn fragrances on and off

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute and Purdue University scientists have discovered the switch in plants that turns off production of terpenoids—carbon-rich compounds that play roles in plant physiology and are used by humans in everything from fragrances and flavorings to biofuels and pharmaceuticals.

Salk Institute receives $2 million for cancer research initiative

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced a $2 million gift in support of its new Conquering Cancer Initiative from its current Board of Trustees Chair, Dan Lewis, and his wife, Martina Lewis. The funds will be used to advance the Salk Cancer Center’s highest research priorities, including new investigations into five of the deadliest cancers: lung, pancreatic, brain (glioblastoma), ovarian and triple-negative breast.

Distinguished neuroscientist Kay Tye to join Salk Institute

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute announced that distinguished neuroscientist Kay Tye will join the Salk faculty in January 2019 as a full professor. She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Cells agree: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

LA JOLLA—We’ve all heard the expression: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Now, research led by a Salk Institute scientist suggests why, at a cellular level, this might be true. The team reports that brief exposures to stressors can be beneficial by prompting the cell to trigger sustained production of antioxidants, molecules that help get rid of toxic cellular buildup related to normal metabolism.

Bribing bacteria to play nicely is good for everyone

LA JOLLA—Antibiotic use is driving an epidemic of antibiotic resistance, as more susceptible bacteria are killed but more resilient strains live on and multiply with abandon. But if antibiotics aren’t the end-all solution for infectious disease, what is?

Joint Statement from Salk President Dr. Rusty Gage, on behalf of the Salk Institute, and Salk Professors Drs. Kathy Jones and Vicki Lundblad

When each of us joined the Salk Institute, we signed on to a bold and collective mission far bigger and far more important than our work as individual scientists. Over the last year, the Institute’s collective nature has been put to the test, having entered into uncharted territory amidst very public litigation. As we have moved through the legal process, however, we have been reminded that, whatever our differences, we must never lose sight of our aspiration to work for the betterment of humanity and for each other. With that spirit in mind, in recent weeks the Institute’s leadership and Drs. Kathy Jones and Vicki Lundblad commenced discussions in hopes of resolving our disputes. Those productive conversations have led to a resolution of all claims between these parties that will enable us to put our disagreements behind us and move forward together at Salk for the collective good of the Institute and science.

Back to the future: breast cancer reprises pathways found in fetal cells

LA JOLLA—Using just a microscope, Italian surgeon Francesco Durante was struck by the similarities between cells in the most malignant cancers and the embryonic cells of the organ in which the cancer originated.

Widespread connections among neurons help the brain distinguish smells

LA JOLLA—Can you tell the smell of a rose from the scent of a lilac? If so, you have your brain’s piriform cortex to thank. Compared to many parts of the brain, the piriform cortex—which lets animals and humans process information about smells—looks like a messy jumble of connections between cells called neurons. Now, Salk Institute researchers have illuminated how the randomness of the piriform cortex is actually critical to how the brain distinguishes between similar odors.

Depleting microbiome with antibiotics can affect glucose metabolism

LA JOLLA—A new study from the Salk Institute has found that mice that have their microbiomes depleted with antibiotics have decreased levels of glucose in their blood and better insulin sensitivity. The research has implications for understanding the role of the microbiome in diabetes. It also could lead to better insight into the side effects seen in people who are being treated with high levels of antibiotics. The study appeared in the journal Nature Communications on July 20, 2018.

Janelle Ayres receives $1 million from W. M. Keck Foundation for infectious disease research

LA JOLLA—Associate Professor Janelle Ayres is the recipient of a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to study new ways to treat deadly infections including sepsis and the flu, both of which require novel therapies beyond antibiotics and antivirals to effectively combat.

An ATM that dispenses antioxidants

LA JOLLA—One reason we’re supposed to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is because they contain nutritious compounds called antioxidants. These molecules counteract the damage to our bodies from harmful products of normal cells called reactive oxygen species (ROS).

What the satellites in your body do

LA JOLLA—Only some of us have satellite TV in our homes, but all of us have satellite DNA in cells in our bodies. Working copies of satellite DNA (called satellite RNAs) are high in certain types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian. But whether they cause cancer or merely coincide with it has been unclear.

How the office org chart in your brain helps to organize your actions

LA JOLLA—Driving to work, typing an email or playing a round of golf—people perform actions such as these throughout the day. But neuroscientists are still unsure how the brain orchestrates complex actions or switches to a new action—behaviors that are impaired in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Salk Institute’s Janelle Ayres wins Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists

LA JOLLA—Salk Associate Professor Janelle Ayres has been named one of three winners of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, one of the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career scientists. Ayres, the laureate in the life sciences category, will receive $250,000 for her pioneering research in physiology and the study of the how bacteria interact with humans. Ayres’ work is revolutionizing our understanding of host-pathogen interactions and has the potential to solve one of the greatest current public health threats: anti-microbial resistance.

Salk researchers win five competitive grants for cancer research

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists Ronald Evans, Diana Hargreaves, Tony Hunter, Graham McVicker and Geoffrey Wahl are among the first wave of researchers to receive funding from Padres Pedal the Cause, one of one of the largest stand-alone cancer fundraising events in San Diego. The nonprofit raised $2.4 million for cancer research in November 2017, thanks to the efforts of more than 3,000 bicycle riders, sponsors, volunteers and donors.

Salk Institute scientist Eiman Azim wins prestigious McKnight Scholar Award

LA JOLLA—Eiman Azim, an assistant professor in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, has received a McKnight Scholar Award from the McKnight Foundation. The award, which totals $225,000 over three years, encourages neuroscientists at early stages of their careers to focus on disorders of learning and memory. Each year it is awarded to no more than six neuroscientists.

Salk Institute’s Tony Hunter wins 2018 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science

LA JOLLA—Salk American Cancer Society Professor Tony Hunter has been awarded the 2018 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science.

Salk scientist Saket Navlakha named Pew Scholar

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.