A $300 million fundraising campaign launched Thursday to help advance the research and development in four scientific initiatives at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Federal funding to support research has stopped, said William Brody, president of the Salk Institute, at a press conference Thursday. As a result, pressure has been placed on the institute to secure other sources of funding. Federal funding from the National Institutes of Health accounted for two-thirds of Salk’s budget in 2003, and today that number has dropped to less than 50 percent, according to a release.
Last year, the institute raised a record amount of private funding -- $50 million -- and secured $150 million during a silent phase of the campaign toward the $300 million goal, said Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs, chair of the Salk Institute board of trustees, at a press conference Thursday.
More than 50 years ago, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio and had a vision that the institute “would continue to make groundbreaking discoveries,” said Brody.
Jennifer Ehren, a scientist at Salk, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33 years old. There was no family history of the disease and Ehren was in the best shape of her life, she said. Her cancer was eliminated and because of a therapeutic drug, Ehren is alive. That experience renewed her vigor to create drugs, Ehren said. The institute has the “knowledge and determination” to cure diseases, but that requires funding, she said.
The four scientific initiatives include cancer, healthy aging, dynamic brain and genomic medicine.
Discoveries made by Tony Hunter, a professor in the molecular and cell biology laboratory, led to the discovery of cancer drugs and other drugs stemming from his discoveries.
“Cancer is not one disease but many,” said Hunter. “It’s about to become the leading cause of death in the U.S.”
The goal is to develop drugs to make cancer a “treatable illness, rather than a death sentence,” said Hunter.
The dynamic brain initiative will focus on a real-time analysis of brain function, said Fred Gage, a professor in the genetics laboratory. Actions and behaviors change the brain: “We are what we do, to a large extent,” said Gage. The initiative will work to develop tools related to spinal cord injuries, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis and others, and also strengthen vision research.
The healthy aging initiative will study the underlying mechanisms related to aging, said Martin Hetzer, a professor in the molecular and cell biology laboratory. The research priorities include studying aging at the molecular and cellular level; aging as a multidimensional phenomenon; and how aging is linked to diseases and disabilities and identifying the root, said Hetzer.
The genomic medicine initiative is underpinned in the interest in chronic disease and illness, said Ron Evans, a professor in the gene expression laboratory. The initiative focuses on how genes control the process and how to understand the genome to deconstruct the process, he said.
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