I hope this message finds you and your family safe and well during this unparalleled period in our history.
In ways large and small, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world and given us all an appreciation for many things we took for granted. This time last year, few of us could have imagined that a trip to the grocery store, a simple hug from a friend or a handshake would become a risk to our health.
This pandemic has also given us a renewed appreciation for the critical role scientific research plays in protecting our health and our way of life. As we anxiously await the distribution of effective vaccines, I take comfort knowing that the Institute’s founder, Jonas Salk, faced a similar challenge with polio. Using basic science, he developed the first safe and effective vaccine, which helped halt polio epidemics. Science will once again prevail, this time over the novel coronavirus.
As 2020 comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude for the extraordinary efforts made by our faculty and administrative staff over the past year, which helped the Institute successfully navigate this pandemic. Under the leadership of President Rusty Gage, the Institute responded rapidly in March as the virus spread. A multidisciplinary team from across the Institute implemented strategies to protect our researchers and staff and allow for the safe pursuit of scientific research. And through this shared goal, stronger relations and new collaborations have been established among Salk staff, faculty, donors and trustees.
Salk is fortunate to have Rusty Gage as its leader. It is well known that Rusty is a brilliant neuroscientist whose work continues to be at the forefront of scientific discovery. But it is his generosity of spirit, humility and focus on the future that also make him such a strong leader for Salk. He is known for his ability to bring people together and collaborate to advance both the scientific and administrative goals of the Institute. It is this unique set of skills and experience that will help us build on Salk’s 60 years of bold research and position the Institute for even greater success into the future. A look at how that future is poised to unfold at Salk is the focus of this issue.
In this edition of Inside Salk you will discover how Salk scientists are pursuing their research and what makes them tick. Associate Professor Julie Law discusses how a chance event led her to devote her career to understanding the process of turning genes on or off. Staff Scientist Gerald Pao is at the forefront of scientific advancement, from studying the novel coronavirus to uploading brains to computers. And Postdoctoral Fellow Austin Coley not only conducts innovative brain research but also has a passion for advancing opportunities for greater diversity within the world of science.
The Institute’s future is bright because of its dedicated supporters, leadership and the faculty and staff who embody the spirit of Jonas Salk’s challenge to turn dreams into reality. On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Salk Institute, I extend my deep appreciation for your support of Salk science. You have truly made a difference.
Daniel C. Lewis
Salk Board of Trustees Chair