Sixty-three years ago, on April 12, 1955, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was declared safe and effective, marking the beginning of the end for the crippling virus that tragically affected so many children and families. To create a powerful visual reminder of what Salk’s team accomplished, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health recently placed on display an “iron lung” donated by our Institute.
For those with horrifying memories of the devastating disease, the infamous ventilation device is likely a stark reminder of dark days that ultimately—and thankfully—were illuminated by the dawn of discovery. For all of us in the scientific community, it is a reminder of the enormous, transformative possibility of our work, and the vital mission of this Institute.
As you’re likely aware, the Institute is in the midst of a transition phase and has faced some challenges. True to our nature, we are embracing this season of change, addressing our challenges and seeking to build on the progress we achieved in recent years under the leadership of Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the great scientific luminaries of our time who will be retiring at the end of the summer.
Rarely has a day gone by when I haven’t been reminded about where our core focus must remain; the pace of breakthrough research coming out of this Institute has been truly amazing. In this issue, you’ll read more about our exciting new cancer initiative —a multi-pronged approach toward conquering five of the most deadly cancers—and, in the process, seeking to develop entirely new classes of therapies that can be used
to treat all cancers.
Recently, a longtime, enthusiastic supporter of the Institute asked me: “why should we care about Salk?” He meant the question honestly and I’m glad he asked it. Because it’s a question that’s incumbent on all of us to emphatically and constantly answer as stewards of a bold scientific mission and ambassadors of a place where we continue to prove possibility is limitless.
So what’s the answer? For me it is this: We care because we are, in effect, brick layers, building foundations and creating critical connections that piece by piece, hand by hand, lead to towering achievements. We care because we are explorers and risk takers who have signed up for the hard work, the seemingly impossible tasks—because we know the rewards. We care because every day we see in our mind’s eye an image akin to that iron lung relic, a symbol that declares with Salk, the match was met.
I am very passionate about this Institute and privileged to be serving in this role. Thank you very much for your support.
President, Salk Institute