Spotlight

Nicola Allen nominated to prestigious young scientists group

Assistant Professor Nicola Allen has joined one of the most elite global communities, the World Economic Forum’s Young Scientists, who comprise today’s “most forward-thinking and advanced scientific minds” under the age of 40. Allen spoke about the state of global neuroscience at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, an event involving 90 countries and 2,000 participants convened by the forum, July 27–29, in Dalian, China.

Instrumental Philanthropy

Larry D. Greenfield has always been partial to contraptions. As a teen in Canoga Park, California, in the mid-to-late 1950s, he installed a closet door switch that would turn the closet light on and off  when the door opened and closed. He also wired the whole backyard with lighting without any instructions—or his parents’ permission, but with the tacit blessing of his mother.

Today, the retired radiologist and his wife, Carol, who worked at Eastman Kodak and the Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau, satisfy their mutual affinity for apparatus by supporting the equipment and technological needs of Salk’s scientists. The Carlsbad couple—who regularly attend Back to Basics lectures, Women & Science forums and Science & Music concerts—takes an especially keen interest in helping young researchers with labs to build.

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Cataloging brain-cell types

Salk Institute scientists will lead a $25 million, five-year initiative to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by systematically identifying and cataloging cell types across the mammalian brain, the National Institutes of Health has announced. The effort, which is part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative, will be co-led by Salk Professors Joseph Ecker and Ed Callaway. Salk scientists Margarita Behrens, Xin Jin and Kuo-Fen Lee, along with researchers from USC and UC San Diego, will also participate in the collaboration.

Silvana Konermann named HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellow

Silvana Konermann, a research associate in the lab of Helmsley-Salk Fellow Patrick Hsu, was chosen as one of 15 inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray Fellows. Each fellow will receive up to $1.4 million in funding over eight years. The Hanna H. Gray Fellows program seeks to increase diversity in the biomedical research community by supporting talented early career scientists from groups underrepresented in the life sciences who have the potential to become leaders in academic research. In this two-phase program, fellows will be supported from early postdoctoral training through several years of a tenure-track faculty position.

Inder Verma named a “Giant of Science”

The American Cancer Society has bestowed its Triumph Award on Professor Inder Verma for his seminal accomplishments in gene therapy and cancer research. Verma, who holds the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Chair in Exemplary Life Science, was honored at the Giants of Science gala on October 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles. In its second year, the event honors outstanding researchers and scientists in the cancer community and raises funds for cancer research.

Salk establishes architecture endowment, garners award for teak restoration

The Institute has created an Architecture Conservation Program to address ongoing preservation of the nearly 60-year-old Modernist structure considered to be a masterwork of architect Louis Kahn.

With a lead gift by a son of Jonas Salk, Jonathan Salk, and his wife, Elizabeth Shepherd, the endowment was announced during the June 27 unveiling of a multi-year, $9.8 million project with the Getty Institute to conserve the building’s signature teak window systems. On October 13, the Institute was honored with the California Preservation Foundation’s Preservation Design Award in recognition of the completion of Salk’s teak window system restoration. The Institute shared recognition for “excellence in craftsman and preservation technology” with teak project architects Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. The restoration was conducted in partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) under its Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative. At the 34th annual awards ceremony in San Francisco, the Salk Institute also received the CPF’s President’s Award for establishing the endowment fund program to ensure responsible stewardship of Kahn’s iconic buildings going forward.

Rewarding Innovation

Assistant Professor Eiman Azim was named an NIH Director’s New Innovator for 2017 as part of the National Institutes of Health’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. The award provides $1.5 million for a 5-year project during which Azim will explore how the nervous system controls dexterous movements. The award is designed specifically to support a small group of creative scientists at an early stage of their career with an emphasis on innovative, high-impact projects.

Processing Sound

Associate Professor Tatyana Sharpee was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate of approximately $950,000 over four years to study how the brain processes sounds and to test theories about how different types of neurons work together in the brain. This grant is part of a multi-national project with groups in France and Israel.

Creating new tools

Two Salk scientists received a National Science Foundation BRAIN Initiative award to explore the brain. Ed Callaway, in conjunction with Stanford University, will use the award of over $9 million to develop a broadly applicable platform for discovering how neural circuit activity gives rise to complex cognitions and behaviors, which will lead to a better understanding of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Additionally, the University of Texas at Austin, Salk’s Terrence Sejnowski and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) received a grant of over $9 million from the program to map synapses. Sejnowski’s team will build a computational microscope to animate the electron microscope data from the project and probe the function of synapses at the molecular level.

Pursuing advanced modeling

As part of the National Science Foundation’s funding for new multidisciplinary approaches to neuroscience, Terrence Sejnowski together with the California Institute of Technology will receive more than $1 million over 3 years to pursue advanced modeling of the brain.

Developing sensor proteins

Associate Professor Axel Nimmerjahn is part of a BRAIN Initiative grant with UC Davis, UCSF and the Oregon Health and Science University. The team was awarded almost $3 million over 3 years by the NIH to develop novel  fluorescent sensor proteins for optically measuring the dynamic changes of neuromodulatory chemicals in the brain and spinal cord of awake, behaving animals. The work could yield important new insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease, depression, spinal cord injury and addiction.

Increasing representation

Carol Marchetto, a senior staff  scientist in the lab of Rusty Gage, was selected as a 2017 BRAINS Fellow, which is a national program funded by the NIH to accelerate and improve the career advancement of neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented groups.

Fellowship site

Rusty Gage receives Alzheimer’s award

Professor Rusty Gage has been named the 2017 Courage & Hope Researcher by Alzheimer’s San Diego for his research on age-related neurodegenerative disease. Gage was among four San Diegans honored for their frontline work in healthcare, research, awareness and caregiving at the sixth annual Celebration of Courage & Hope ceremony on September 14 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. Alzheimer’s San Diego selected Gage, who holds the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease, for his discovery that neurons are capable of regenerating and the key role it plays in modern Alzheimer’s and dementia research.

Geoffrey Wahl receives Susan G. Komen research grant award

Professor Geoffrey Wahl, who is a Komen Scholar and holder of Salk’s Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair, was awarded $550,000 to continue to study the signaling pathways that help create and maintain mammary stem cells. By understanding these pathways and how disrupting them contributes to the development of breast cancer, Wahl’s lab is working to identify new treatment targets.

Reuben Shaw receives National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award

Professor Reuben Shaw, director of Salk’s National Cancer Institute–designated Cancer Center, has received the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA), which encourages cancer research with breakthrough potential. Shaw, a member of Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and holder of the William R. Brody Chair, will receive $4.2 million in direct funding over the next seven years to further his work. The award is granted to innovative cancer researchers with outstanding records of productivity to allow them to take greater risks in their research that could lead to breakthroughs.

Prominent scientists in immunobiology and aging research to join Salk Institute

The Salk Institute is honored to welcome two new faculty with the rank of full professor, both of whom are highly respected and accomplished leaders in their  fields. Susan Kaech and Gerald Shadel will inspire fresh collaborations and bring experienced perspectives to bear on Salk’s approaches to health and disease. The researchers were hired through the Rockstar Fund, founded in honor of Salk Board Chair Emeritus Irwin Jacobs to recruit high-profile scientists to the Institute. Kaech was recruited thanks to a grant from the Nomis Foundation, designated for a senior investigator to lead the Nomis Center at Salk.

Kaech will serve as director of the Nomis Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis. She studies how immune cells called T cells remember infectious agents our bodies have previously encountered in order to mount a more rapid response the next time we’re exposed to them.

Shadel will join Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, where he will focus on the surprisingly diverse roles of mitochondria in aging and disease using genetic, biochemical and molecular approaches.

The duo will arrive at Salk in early 2018.

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