President's Letter

I’ve been perusing a book authored by Jonas Salk more than 35 years ago (and currently being reprinted by his son Jonathan). I find myself impressed by our founder’s foresight. Developing his arguments through an extensive series of graphs and visual concepts, Jonas points to “the danger of self-extinction” if humanity doesn’t attend to the rapidly worsening problems of our planet. He proposes cross-disciplinary and collaborative scientific expertise as the solution:

…there is a need for consideration of details in the continuum from the molecular level to the ecological. An approach to human problems now requires attention and understanding of not just one, but all levels, and solutions will require knowledge in all realms.

The Salk Institute is answering Jonas’ clarion call. Our scientists often join their expertise across this continuum in exciting ways. Such expertise ranges from human language and behavior to cellular control pathways and gene expression, with the goal of understanding our ability to be social, idea-expressing beings. Salk scientists are addressing other current challenges through a number of new science initiatives, one being Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative. In this issue you’ll learn how our world-renowned plant biologists are devising very promising strategies for combatting global warming and the related climate changes that threaten our food sources.

Salk’s visionary supporters are also stepping to the fore, none more readily than Carol and Larry Greenfield. You’ll read about how their consistent philanthropic efforts are already making a positive impact.

In our Observations feature, you’ll get to know Assistant Professor Sung Han, who’s developing critical insight into the brain’s alarm system. And in our NextGen section, you’ll meet multicultural dynamo Elena Blanco-Suárez. A Helmsley Postdoctoral Fellow in Nicola Allen’s Molecular Neurobiology lab, she’s illuminating the roles astrocytes perform in regulating brain function.

Looking ahead to a new year and all the promise it holds, we’re thrilled to welcome two new members to our faculty: Susan Kaech and Gerald Shadel. Sue, an expert in immunology, will serve as director of the Nomis Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis. Gerry will join our Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, where he will continue his pioneering work on the surprisingly diverse roles that mitochondria (the cell’s energy powerhouses) play in aging.

As this is our annual donor honor roll issue, allow me to thank the many, many generous supporters who understand that they have the power to help create a better future for all of humanity. As Jonas wrote, solutions arise “through the creativity, initiative, and shared responsibility of individuals.” I salute you.

Elizabeth Blackburn
President, Salk Institute
Irwin M. Jacobs Presidential Chair

Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Latest discoveries, events & more.