Jonas Salk notably said, “our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” Living now, in these extraordinary times, we as individuals and an Institute recognize that we must respond with clarity and morality.
At the time of this magazine’s printing in late June, it remains hard to overstate the impact of the novel coronavirus infection, COVID-19. The pandemic has impeded world economies and education, and halted personal freedoms often taken for granted, including the simplicity of an in-person interaction. As the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 continues, the world is reminded of how crucial basic scientific research is to human health.
It is also impossible to ignore the parallels between the fear and anxiety we are experiencing today with the fears of a prior generation who faced the polio virus. At its height, polio paralyzed or killed half a million people globally each year. Today, polio is 99 percent eradicated globally, thanks to the effective polio vaccine.
While the world works on treating and defeating COVID-19, it is an unprecedented period for global scientific collaborations. Indeed, the Salk Institute has tapped its experts in virology, immunology and infectious disease on potential approaches and put together a committee to identify and review COVID-19 research proposals. Already, 11 new research proposals have received preliminary approval to proceed.
The Institute, like organizations across the world, is being impacted financially. Most of our revenue streams have dropped, and safety measures implemented to prevent transmission of the virus have required the cancellation of events, including our 25th anniversary Symphony at Salk fundraiser in August. One of the bright spots is that many of our Symphony at Salk sponsors continued their contributions to this event despite the cancellation. Because Symphony at Salk proceeds support our unrestricted annual operations, their generosity provides essential funding to help us navigate this period.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May sparked protests across the world. The abhorrent racial discrimination and violence against Black people are devastating reminders of the vital importance of how our mission to better humanity must extend beyond science. Just as “every cure has a starting point” is championed as our mantra in research toward eliminating disease and other issues threatening human health, it so too must be our mindset in doing our part to eradicate systemic racism and injustice. For each, the essential starting point is an absolute commitment to being constructive forces for progress and agents of meaningful change. We stand with our Black community, and our commitment is unwavering.
In this issue, you will learn more about how the Institute improves global well-being on multiple fronts and continues to be a faithful steward of Jonas Salk’s vision. I trust the updates contained in these pages—ranging from new coronavirus research to profiles of our innovative scientists—inspire your hope in our shared future. Know that all of us at the Salk Institute look forward to the day when we can safely come together again. Until then, please stay safe and healthy.
Fred H. Gage
President, Salk Institute