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Salk News


New clues why gold standard treatment for bipolar disorder doesn’t work for majority of patients

LA JOLLA—Lithium is considered the gold standard for treating bipolar disorder (BD), but nearly 70 percent of people with BD don’t respond to it. This leaves them at risk for debilitating, potentially life-threatening mood swings. Researchers at the Salk Institute have found that the culprit may lie in gene activity—or lack of it.


Salk Assistant Professor Dmitry Lyumkis receives CAREER award from NSF

LA JOLLA—Assistant Professor Dmitry Lyumkis has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The CAREER award supports early career scientists who serve as academic role models and lead scientific advances in their organization. Lyumkis will receive almost $1.8 million over four years to examine how some viruses such as HIV hijack and interact with host protein machinery to permanently alter the host genome to sustain infection.


Salk Institute welcomes human resources executive Dennis Driver as new trustee

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute Board of Trustees welcomes its newest member, Dennis Driver. Chaired by Daniel C. Lewis, the Salk Board helps drive the direction of the world-renowned biological research facility founded by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk in 1960.


Computational model reveals how the brain manages short-term memories

LA JOLLA—If you’ve ever forgotten something mere seconds after it was at the forefront of your mind—the name of a dish you were about to order at a restaurant, for instance—then you know how important working memory is. This type of short-term recall is how people retain information for a matter of seconds or minutes to solve a problem or carry out a task, like the next step in a series of instructions. But, although it’s critical in our day-to-day lives, exactly how the brain manages working memory has been a mystery.


Teaching artificial intelligence to adapt

LA JOLLA—Getting computers to “think” like humans is the holy grail of artificial intelligence, but human brains turn out to be tough acts to follow. The human brain is a master of applying previously learned knowledge to new situations and constantly refining what’s been learned. This ability to be adaptive has been hard to replicate in machines.


When it comes to feeling pain, touch or an itch, location matters

LA JOLLA—When you touch a hot stove, your hand reflexively pulls away; if you miss a rung on a ladder, you instinctively catch yourself. Both motions take a fraction of a second and require no forethought. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute have mapped the physical organization of cells in the spinal cord that help mediate these and similar critical “sensorimotor reflexes.”


Award-winning cancer researcher to join Salk faculty

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute is excited to welcome Assistant Professor Christina Towers, a top researcher in the field of cancer biology. Towers will join Salk’s renowned NCI-designated Cancer Center to examine how cancer cells recycle both their own nutrients and the power-generating structures called mitochondria in order to survive. Her long-term goal is to improve the treatment options for cancer patients.


Salk neuroscientists receive $4.4 million from NIH BRAIN Initiative

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute neuroscientists Edward Callaway, Sreekanth Chalasani, and Nancy Padilla Coreano have been named recipients in the 2020 round of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to gain new insights into brain function.


Salk’s Uri Manor to receive over $690,000 from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to advance biological imaging

LA JOLLA—Salk Staff Scientist Uri Manor, director of the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Core Facility, will receive $690,116 over three years from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) as one of 22 CZI Imaging Scientists, to develop new open-source imaging tools and data sets while expanding his educational outreach.


Salk Professors Susan Kaech and Alan Saghatelian named 2020 AAAS Fellows

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Susan Kaech and Alan Saghatelian have been named 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Kaech and Saghatelian are among 489 new AAAS Fellows who were nominated by their peers for their distinguished efforts to advance science.


Five Salk professors named among most highly cited researchers in the world

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker, Rusty Gage, Reuben Shaw and Kay Tye have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. The list identifies researchers who demonstrate “significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers.” Professors Chory, Ecker and Gage have been named to this list every year since 2014, when the regular annual rankings began. This is Professor Tye’s fourth consecutive time and Professor Shaw’s second consecutive time receiving the designation. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.


Bezos Earth Fund donates $30 million to Salk Institute for innovative climate change research

LA JOLLA—Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative (HPI) will receive $30 million from the Bezos Earth Fund to advance efforts to increase the ability of crop plants, such as corn and soybeans, to capture and store atmospheric carbon via their roots in the soil. This work will explore carbon-sequestration mechanisms in six of the world’s most prevalent crop species with the goal of increasing the plants’ carbon-storage capacity. It complements an ongoing HPI project focused on identifying genes for increased carbon sequestration in model plants and then utilizing those genes to enhance carbon sequestration in crops.


Salk appoints Jesse Dixon as assistant professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has appointed molecular biologist Jesse Dixon to the rank of assistant professor for his significant work in uncovering how the human genome, the DNA blueprint for life, is organized in three-dimensional space inside of cells. The appointment was based on recommendations by Salk faculty, and approved by Salk President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.


Salk Institute and Sempra Energy announce project to advance plant-based carbon capture and storage research

SAN DIEGO and LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute and Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) today announced a new project to advance plant-based carbon capture and sequestration research, education and implementation to help address the climate crisis. Sempra Energy is donating $2 million to the Salk Institute to help fund the five-year project.


Honoring the memory of Jonas Salk, polio vaccine inventor, on his 106th birthday anniversary, during the COVID-19 pandemic

LA JOLLA—As people across the world anxiously await the promise of an effective vaccine to end the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 220,000 Americans and more than 1.1 million globally, it is important to remember a time when the world faced similar challenges and, through scientific research, found answers that changed the course of history. On October 28, the Salk Institute honors the accomplishments of our founder, Jonas Salk, on his 106th birthday.


San Diego research community: ICE proposal threatens scientific progress

Next week, the Department of Homeland Security will review the contents of a proposal, ICEB-2019-0006, issued by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE), that seeks to limit the stay of an international scholar in the US to either two or four years. The potentially devastating impact of this proposal, if implemented, is of such magnitude that the undersigned leaders of San Diego’s biomedical research institutions are standing together to voice alarm.


Salk Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle awarded over $1 million to study impact of tobacco use on pancreatic cancer

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Assistant Professor Dannielle Engle has been awarded a New Investigator Award from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) to examine how tobacco use promotes cellular changes that lead to pancreatic cancer. The TRDRP funds research that “enhances understanding of tobacco use, prevention and cessation, the social, economic and policy-related aspects of tobacco use, and tobacco-related diseases in California,” according to their website. Engle will receive over $1 million over three years to develop new models for examining how tobacco carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) lead to tumor development and metastasis.


Salk Institute and BridgeBio Pharma collaborate to advance therapies for genetically driven disease

LA JOLLA and PALO ALTO, Calif.—The Salk Institute and BridgeBio Pharma, Inc. (Nasdaq: BBIO) today announced a three-year collaboration agreement formed to advance cutting-edge academic discoveries in genetically driven diseases toward therapeutic applications. Under the partnership, BridgeBio will help fund research programs from Salk’s world-renowned innovative cancer research, with the eventual goal of developing new therapeutics for patients in need.


In Memoriam: Paul F. Glenn

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute lost a good friend and scientific partner when Paul F. Glenn passed away on September 29, 2020, at his home in Montecito, California. He was 89.


Traveling brain waves help detect hard-to-see objects

LA JOLLA—Imagine that you’re late for work and desperately searching for your car keys. You’ve looked all over the house but cannot seem to find them anywhere. All of a sudden you realize your keys have been sitting right in front of you the entire time. Why didn’t you see them until now?