July Newsletter
July 19, 2013

William R. Brody
At Salk, we are regularly treated to compelling talks by visiting scientists, and the recent presentation by Nobel Laureate Robert Lefkowitz was a particularly special event----both for the fascinating science he presented and as a tribute to late Salk faculty member Wylie Vale.


Dr. Lefkowitz won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last year for his studies of G-protein-coupled receptors, which are crucial to cellular communication. He was an apt choice as the speaker for the inaugural Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture

in Physiology, because his discoveries, like Wylie's, show how basic research can lead to breakthroughs in drug development. 


Wylie, who passed away last year, worked in a similar area of research as Lefkowitz. He discovered a group of neuropeptides and their receptors that mediate the body's responses to stress and stress-related disorders. His work led to new methods for the diagnosis of pituitary disease and opened new possibilities for the development of drugs aimed at treating anxiety, depression and even drug abuse.


Wylie's legacy is not just in science, but in the many close friendships he made here at Salk. Through the Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture series, we will continue to remember him as a both a pioneering scientist and a great friend. 

Yours in discovery, 

 William R. Brody

Inaugural Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture

On June18, Nobel Laureate Robert J. Lefkowitz delivered the Inaugural Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture in Physiology, an annual lecture devoted to the memory of late Salk professor Wylie Vale. "When they called me to give this talk, I was getting three to four invitations a day," Lefkowitz said afterwards. "Even if you say no to 90 percent of them, you're still left with an impossible schedule, but I couldn't say no. Like everyone else in science, I was shocked by Wylie's passing."


Lefkowitz, a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at the Duke University Medical Center, and Brian K. Kobilka of the Stanford University School of Medicine, jointly won the Nobel Prize for their work on G-protein-coupled receptors, also known as seven-transmembrane domain receptors. "There isn't an aspect of human physiology that isn't controlled by these seven membrane receptors," said Inder Verma, in his introduction. "Well over 50 percent of the drugs we use today have something to do with these receptors."


Cells preserve their structural integrity through a double-layered wall of fat molecules, but hormones and other chemical signals need to pass instructions into cells. There are two major ways: ion channels, which act as cellular gates, and receptors, which act more like locks and keys. Many drugs, such as beta blockers, act by jamming the locks----breaking the signaling relay. Because of Lefkowitz and Kobilka, the role of receptors in that mechanism is now precisely understood.


Going from abstract concepts to uncovering cellular mechanisms is at the very heart of basic biomedical research. Once you know a mechanism, you can know where to target a drug----and just as important, why a drug could be safe in one instance, but dangerous in others.

Wylie Vale Inaugural Lecture

Inder Verma introduces the Inaugural Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture.     

Congratulations Timothy Tucey!

Tim Tucey

Tucey has already signed up for next year's Boston Marathon

After growing up in Colorado, attending Cornell and working in Boston, Timothy Tucey was overjoyed to come to San Diego and leave his parka and heavy boots behind. So much so that he took up marathon running----and since arriving at Salk in 2007, he has run ten marathons. Tucey placed twelfth overall in the recent San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, and he was among the top 500 runners in past NYC and Boston marathons.


He balances his running with studying telomerase in the lab of Vicki Lundblad, where he is completing his Ph.D. in biology. Telomerase keeps telomeres, the tips that protect the ends of chromosomes, fully elongated. Since variations in telomere length correlate with the onset of certain age-related diseases, telomerase is critically important, yet there's strangely little of it in cells. Tucey spent several years developing a high-resolution technique to detect telomerase, which has led him to a series of discoveries about how it performs its vital function.


At the bench, one step in Tucey's protocol employs gel electrophoresis, which uses an electric field to separate proteins by charge. The procedure takes about 90 minutes. "It's perfect timing," says Tucey. "I put on my running clothes and take a jog. When I come back, I have so much more energy. It fits really well with lab work to get some fitness in." The mix obviously works for Tucey, as he will be defending his Ph.D. later this summer.


Upcoming Issue of Inside Salk 

 Inside Salk


Our next edition of Inside Salk will be making its way to your mailbox very soon! In this latest issue, we highlight our newly established Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine and elucidate the potential impact genomic medicine may have on decoding chronic diseases.


Can't wait for the newest Inside Salk? Visit our website to view all our past issues online now! 


Pedal the Cause


The Salk Institute is very excited to be part of the first annual Pedal the Cause San Diego----an epic weekend cycling event on October 26 and 27 to benefit San Diego's three cancer centers:  the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, UC San Diego's Moores Cancer Center and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.


Pedal the Cause San Diego's aim is to raise much-needed funds for cancer research and to promote stronger relationships among San Diego's complementary research centers. Their ultimate goal is to expedite innovative cancer treatments from the labs to the patient's bedside by encouraging collaboration.


By sponsoring our riders, you are supporting the Salk's continued commitment to cancer discovery. Support us----and our riders----this October! 

Pedal the Cause
Science News 

Joe Ecker led a team of international scientists that identified thousands of genes that are activated by ethylene, a gaseous hormone, which influences ripening, pathogen defense, growth regulation, and more.  The results could open the door to developing new plant strains with slower or faster growth and ripening or resistance to infection, among other adaptations based on the newly revealed pathways.


Genetics of Barrel-Spoiling Bad Apples




A study from Dennis O'Leary's lab has demonstrated that sensory regions in the brain develop in a fundamentally different way than previously thought, a finding that may yield new insights into visual and neural disorders.  
Read more>>  


Scientists Discover Previously Unknown Requirement for Brain Development

Science Daily 



Ed Callaway, in collaboration with the Gladstone Institutes, has found a way to untangle the complex neural networks of the brain by using an innovative high-resolution mapping technique. The method offers new insight into how specific brain regions connect to each other and reveals new clues as to what may happen, neuron by neuron, when these connections are disrupted. Developing a better understanding of this region is important as it could inform research into disorders causing basal ganglia dysfunction, including Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
Read more>>


Virus brain-mapping technique uncovers circuits involved in Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease
Kurzweil News


Tickets Now on Sale!

 Katharine McPhee

We are delighted to welcome the multi-talented  Katharine McPhee to take the stage at our 18th annual "Symphony at Salk-A Concert under the Stars" on August 24 to perform with the San Diego Symphony and returning guest conductor Thomas Wilkins.

McPhee, an acclaimed singer and popular actress from the NBC television series "SMASH," gained fame as a standout contestant on the fifth season of the Fox reality show "American Idol," where she impressed audiences and judges alike with her stunning voice. RCA Records quickly signed McPhee after the competition, and her first single, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/My Destiny," immediately hit number two on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart. Her self-titled debut album followed in 2007, and in 2009, McPhee garnered a Young Hollywood Award for Best Female Vocalist.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website at: www.salk.edu/symphony.  Funds raised from the event directly support our leading-edge scientific research and award-winning community education programs.

Symphony at Salk

Question of the Month


In this false-colored electron microscope image of a frog embryo, hair-like protrusions are shown in pink----making them appear a bit like bubblegum flavored spaghetti. The human versions of these tiny cellular structures play an important role in keeping us healthy. What are they and what purpose do they serve?

Image: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Chris Kintner, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, and Matthew Joens and James Fitzpatrick, Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center

Post your answer to our Facebook page:


One randomly chosen winner from the entries with the correct answer will win a special memento of Salk merchandise. (Your choice of a t-shirt or coffee cup.) 


Thank you to everyone who participated in last month's question! Our lucky winners, Brandon Martella from San Diego and Patrick McClernon from Corrales, New Mexico, correctly answered that the holes along the Salk's buildings are filled with lead plugs that prevent water from getting onto the exposed metal bars within. This stops rust from developing and dripping down the concrete panels. 


Let's keep the answers coming!

Issue: 6  
Inaugural Wylie Vale Memorial Lecture
Congratulations Timothy Tucey!
Upcoming Issue of...Inside Salk
Pedal the Cause
Science News
Tickets Now on Sale!
Question of the Month

Upcoming Events



Mechanisms and Models
of Cancer

August 7-10, 2013




Symphony at Salk 

August 24, 2013




Ian Quigley

"Image of tadpole skin taken with a confocal microscope. Hairy-looking cells generate fluid flow like in the human airway; red-colored cells transport acid like the
collecting duct of
 the kidney."


This month's image courtesy of Ian Quigley, Ph. D., Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory - Kintner.


Each month our featured image will provide a shot of art and science. Download the image and use it as your computer desktop wallpaper, smartphone background or facebook timeline photo. Download>>   


Salk's pioneering biomedical research has transformed our understanding of the most critical health-related problems of the 21st century.

Salk Institute