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January 2016

Dear Salk Community and Friends of Salk,

Elizabeth Blackburn
Elizabeth Blackburn

It is a thrill and privilege to address you as Salk's new president. It's been just a couple short weeks, but I'm getting acclimated and already beginning to feel at home. Salk is such a storied institution. I have had the great fortune to work at UC Berkeley, then at UC San Francisco. My appointment to Salk will enable me to continue to contribute. I am eager to build on the Institute's honored and deep-rooted legacy. With everyone on campus, as well as the trustees and many loyal supporters, I know we have a remarkable group in place to take Salk's science onward and upward.

I look forward to meeting you all.

Elizabeth Blackburn

Mitochondria factory
How the cell's power station survives attacks

When mitochondria are under attack---from poisons, environmental stress or genetic mutations---cells wrench these power stations apart, strip out the damaged pieces and reassemble them into usable mitochondria. Reuben Shaw's lab has uncovered an unexpected way in which cells trigger this critical response to threats, offering insight into disorders such as mitochondrial disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disease----particularly Parkinson's disease. The work appears in Science

Cell Cover with the help of Jamie Simon
Here comes the sun: cellular sensor helps plants find light

Scientists in Joanne Chory's lab have discovered a way by which plants assess the quality of shade to outgrow menacing neighbors, a finding that could be used to improve the productivity of crops. The work, published in Cell, shows how the depletion of blue light detected by molecular sensors in plants triggers accelerated growth to overcome a competing plant.

brain sections
Scientists find key driver for treatment of deadly brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme is a particularly deadly cancer. A person diagnosed with this type of brain tumor typically survives 15 months, if given the best care. Inder Verma's lab discovered a key to how these tumor cells proliferate so quickly---and ways to turn this engine of tumor growth into a target for cancer treatment. The paper was published January in the journal Science Advances.

Mathew Lewsey and Joseph Ecker
Mathew Lewsey and Joseph Ecker
Grafted plants' genomes can communicate with each other

Joseph Ecker and collaborators shed new light on the age-old practice of plant grafting: joining a cut branch from one plant onto the stalk of another to create improved hybrid plants. The team showed that epigenetic information, in the form of tiny molecules called sRNA, is transferred between the two plants and can cause gene silencing in each other. The work appears in PNAS this week.

The autism-linked protein MDGA1 _red_ is found in the zones of the brain that give rise to new neurons _green_.
Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

A gene linked to mental disorders helps lay the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to research from Dennis O'Leary's lab published in Cell Reports. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders.


Reuben Shaw
Salk Cancer Center appoints Reuben Shaw as new director

The Salk Institute has named Professor Reuben Shaw as the new director of Salk's National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. Shaw is a member of Salk's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and the holder of the William R. Brody Chair. The Salk Cancer Center was established in 1970 to uncover the fundamental aspects of cancer biology and is just one of seven NCI-designated Basic Research Cancer Centers in the country.

Forbes 30 Under 30
Corina Antal

Corina Antal, a Salk research associate in Ronald Evans' lab, has landed on the Forbes "30 under 30" list in science. According to the magazine, the class of 2016 is comprised of "bright entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents" in 20 sectors. Antal, 29, recently published her research about a group of proteins that was thought to promote growth in tumors but actually suppresses their growth, which could pave the way to new cancer treatments.

SELECT MEDIA COVERAGE: Forbes, San Diego Union-Tribune

International business executive, philanthropist and chemist elected to Salk Board of Trustees

Markus Reinhard
Markus Reinhard

Haeyoung Kong Tang
Haeyoung Kong Tang

Terry Rosen
Terry Rosen

Markus Reinhard is the managing director of the Nomis Foundation, which promotes and funds highly innovative basic research in the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities. Prior to Nomis, he held several senior executive positions at Baxter International. Known as an innovative global thought leader, Reinhard brings a wealth of business acumen to the Institute.

Haeyoung Kong Tang is a local philanthropist with a background in neuroscience. Apart from her PhD in pharmacology, Dr. Tang has co-written scholarly articles and holds patents related to biology, genetics and neurology. She has been a strong supporter of Salk for the past 10 years and most recently became a member of the Salk Institute Council. Dr. Tang has also served on the board of directors of Voices for Children for six years.

Terry Rosen is the co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Arcus Biosciences, a drug discovery company focused on the treatment of cancer by blocking tumor-induced immunosuppression. Prior to founding Arcus, Dr. Rosen was co-founder and CEO of Flexus Biosciences, which was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in February 2015. Dr. Rosen holds numerous patents and has published extensively in the areas of medicinal and synthetic organic chemistry.

Other News

The most popular online course teaches you to learn

Salk neuroscientist Terry Sejnowski and educator Barbara Oakley have created the curriculum for----and teach----the world's most popular online course: an introduction to the art of learning. A survey of the 50 largest online courses released by revealed that, with 1,192,697 students enrolled since the course was created last year, "Learning How to Learn" bested a more tightly focused online offering, "Machine Learning," by more than 70,000 students.

SELECT MEDIA COVERAGE: The New York Times blog

A big idea: raising the next generation of groundbreaking scientists

With its mission to expose school children to genetics and biotechnology, Salk's Education Outreach program recently earned a spot on San Diego Magazine's "26 BIG Ideas" list. Showcased were Education Outreach's mobile science lab and SciChats, the new Skype talks between Salk researchers and students. "We want them to look at science as something they can understand," says Ellen Potter, who runs the program. "That's our real mission."



Salk Science _ Music Series
Each of the concerts in the Salk Science & Music Series feature stunning performances by some of the hottest established and emerging musicians, as well riveting talks about the latest scientific discoveries by Salk scientists.

Salk Women in Science
Please join us
4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

For a presentation by new Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn and a ceremony recognizing recipients of the Salk Women & Science Special Awards Initiative.

For more information about the Salk Women & Science program, contact Betsy Collins at (858) 500-4883 or via email at


autism-linked protein MDGA1
Courtesy: Dennis O'Leary laboratory
Salk Institute science

Download some amazing Salk science images for your smartphone, tablet or desktop. 

The autism-linked protein MDGA1 (red) is found in the zones of the brain that give rise to new neurons (green).

Salk Institute | 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd | La Jolla | CA | 92037 |


Salk Institute | 10010 N Torrey Pines Rd | La Jolla | CA | 92037