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Elizabeth Blackburn

The first full month of autumn has been busy. I am happy to share just a taste of some of the Institute highlights of the past few weeks.

On October 1, Salk Professor Martin Hetzer added the new role of Vice President and Chief Science Officer to his responsibilities. On the accolades front, Associate Professor Clodagh O'Shea has been named an HHMI Faculty Scholar for her groundbreaking work in designing synthetic viruses to destroy cancer, and Helmsley-Salk Fellow Jesse Dixon has received the NIH Director's Early Independence Award to pursue promising and innovative research. Still two more Salk faculty members were recognized----Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte has been awarded a 2016 Pioneer Award for his work in stem cell biology and regeneration, and Shrek Chalasani received a grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Congratulations to them all.

The events calendar continues to be packed, beginning with the popular Back to Basics lecture at 3:00 p.m. November 9 featuring Assistant Professor Nicola Allen, who will talk about glia, a cell essential for the brain to work properly. The second concert of the Salk Science & Music Series' fourth season will be at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, November 20 (you can purchase tickets at Both events will be held in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium.

Please read on for more information.

Yours in Discovery,
Elizabeth Blackburn

Clodagh O'Shea named HHMI Faculty Scholar for groundbreaking work in designing synthetic viruses to destroy cancer

Clodagh O_Shea
Clodagh O'Shea, an associate professor in the Salk Institute's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, is among the first recipients of a grant from the Faculty Scholars Program, a new partnership of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Simons Foundation for early career researchers whose work shows the potential for groundbreaking contributions in their fields. O'Shea is one of 84 Faculty Scholars who will receive $100,000-$400,000 per year over five years to support their pursuit of innovative research. The program's support enables O'Shea, who has made dramatic progress in building selectively replicating cancer-killing viruses as well as visualizing chromatin, to further refine her genetic machines and designs.
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Salk Fellow Jesse Dixon receives NIH Director's Early Independence Award

Jesse Dixon
Helmsley-Salk Fellow Jesse Dixon is among 16 scientists nationwide to receive the Director's Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue promising and innovative research. Dixon will receive $1.25 million in funding over 5 years to delve into how the genome folds into three-dimensional configurations known as higher-order structure, and the implications of those structures for human disease and health. He is the third Salk Fellow to receive the prestigious award since it was established in 2010.
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Salk professor awarded a multi-million NIH Pioneer Award for innovations in cell biology

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte has been awarded a 2016 Pioneer Award, a highly coveted grant that supports the most innovative biomedical research, for his work in stem cell biology and regeneration. The grant will fund Izpisua Belmonte's lab in attempting to generate functional primate organs and tissues in a large animal host, the pig, using novel stem cell technologies his team has developed and recently discovered gene-editing technologies. This grant will award at least $2.5 million in direct costs over 5 years. 

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Salk neuroscientist granted $1 million to harness sound to control brain cells

Sreekanth Chakasani
Salk Associate Professor Sreekanth Chalasani has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative for developing a way to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves, which could be a boon to neuroscience research as well as medicine.

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Salk Institute names Martin Hetzer as Chief Science Officer

Martin Hetzer
The Board of Trustees for the Salk Institute has approved the appointment of Martin Hetzer, a professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, to the position of Vice President and Chief Science Officer, effective October 1. Under the direction of the Institute president, and in conjunction with the Research Advisory Committee, Hetzer will provide leadership in developing and implementing Salk's overall scientific strategy, as well as overseeing research operations in support of this strategy. Hetzer, who is also Salk's Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation Chair, will continue to serve as principal investigator in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.
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Caltech student garners first 'Cohn' award

Hiutung Chu  and Melvin Cohn
The first Melvin Cohn Award for Best PhD/Postdoc Study was presented earlier this month during the La Jolla Immunology Conference held at the Salk Institute. Hiutung Chu from the California Institute of Technology was chosen from among 40 applicants to receive the award for her work on gene-microbiota interactions and how they contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. Established to recognize scientific innovation and impact of early career scientists, specifically graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, the award is named for Cohn, a founding fellow of the Salk Institute and professor emeritus who conducted pioneering studies on the immune system.


Salk Science _ Music series
The Salk Science & Music Series continues its fourth season with a concert by violinist Asi Matathias and Karen Joy Davis at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, November 20 in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium. Comprising the science component of the afternoon, Salk Professor Martin Hetzer of the Molecular and Cell Biology Lab will discuss his research. For tickets and the entire concert schedule, visit or call (858) 587-0657.
  • November 20, 2016 - Asi Matathias 
    & Karen Joy Davis 
    with Martin Hetzer
  • January 22, 2017 - Amit Peled with Kenta Asahina
  • February 12, 2017 - Sean Chen & Karen Joy Davis with Saket Navlakha
  • March 12, 2017 - Zlata Chochieva with Eiman Azim
  • April 30, 2017 - Helen Sung Quartet with Nicola Allen
  What can brain glue do for you?

Twice a year, Salk presents "Back to Basics," a program introducing the Institute's science to the general public. The next Back to Basics lecture features Salk Assistant Professor Nicola Allen, who will talk about her research with glia, an essential cell for the brain to work properly, at 3 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium at the Salk Institute. Reservations are requested and can be made by contacting Jennifer Rothrock at or (858) 500-4881.

Is shift work affecting your health?

"Working Around the Clock," a FREE seminar covering the latest research on biological rhythms and eating patterns by Salk Professor Satchidananda Panda, will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. October 25 in the Trustees' Room at the Salk Institute. If unable to attend the event, please sign up to receive a video recording.

Salk courtyard
The power of architecture

The first retrospective in two decades of Salk architect Louis Kahn's work, featuring more than 200 objects related to his buildings and projects, will be on display from November 5, 2016 to January 31, 2017 at the San Diego Museum of Art.

San Diego Museum of Art logo
Salk Pedal the Cause Team
Team Salk - Padres Pedal the Cause

Training has commenced for Team SCC, Salk's Cancer Center cycling group, for the annual Padres Pedal the Cause to benefit cancer research at the Salk Institute and three other local research centers. This year's cyclo-thon is November 12-13, with courses beginning and ending at Petco Park. To join the team and learn more, visit or contact Jamie Simon at

Other News

Salk Talk logo
Did you know?

The Salk Institute has launched a new podcast. Hosted by Margot Wohl, a member of Kenta Asahina's lab who is pursuing her PhD in neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, Salk Talk features Salk researchers whose efforts advance scientific discovery and whose personalities enrich the scientific community.

Charity Navigator logo
Four-Star charity for six years!

Charity Navigator has bestowed its coveted 4-star rating (the highest rating available) on the Salk Institute for "strong financial health" for the sixth year running. Coming from the nation's largest evaluator of nonprofit business and financial operations, this accolade aims to accentuate the work of efficient and transparent organizations to provide donors with the essential information they need to make their charitable choices with confidence. Only four percent of charities evaluated by Charity Navigator have received at least six consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Salk Institute outperforms more than 1.5 million charities in America.



Salk courtyard at sunset
Salk Institute science

Twice a year the sunset lines up perfectly with the courtyard at the Salk Institute on the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox and the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. It was purposefully designed that way by visionaries Jonas Salk and architect Louis Kahn.

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

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

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