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Salk Institute awarded $25 million grant from Helmsley Charitable Trust

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Credit: Salk Institute

LA JOLLA — (Nov. 21, 2016) The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has received a $25 million grant — a renewal of the largest research gift in the Institute's 56-year history — that will be used to continue exploring an ambitious range of projects aimed at understanding the role chronic inflammation plays in driving human disease.

The grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust extends the historic $42 million Helmsley gift made to the Salk Institute in 2013. That gift established the Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine, which enables Salk's leading scientists to delve into the genetic underpinnings of some of humankind's most devastating afflictions, and paves the way to new therapies for chronic illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer's disease.

"Helmsley is delighted to be able to provide the Salk Institute this critical renewal grant so that its scientists are able to continue the amazing research that stems from our initial grant in 2013," says Stephanie Cuskley, chief executive officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. "We are honored to partner with the Salk Institute and help support its world-class researchers."

The new grant will start January 1, 2017 and provide three years of funding support for Salk research teams drawing from several areas of expertise including cancer, stem cells and metabolism. Led by senior investigators Inder Verma, Ronald Evans and Rusty Gage, scientists who will continue to be funded by Helmsley include Reuben Shaw, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, Marc Montminy, Clodagh O'Shea, Alan Saghatelian, Tony Hunter, Greg Lemke, Paul Sawchenko, Satchidananda Panda and Geoffrey Wahl. Additional support will also be provided to Jan Karlseder, Martin Hetzer, Ye Zheng, Diana Hargreaves, Janelle Ayres, Dmitry Lyumkis, Patrick Hsu and Jesse Dixon. The funding provided by the grant will continue as well to support many core facilities at the Salk Institute.

A central theme of this program is that chronic inflammation lies at the root of most of the health problems in the world today. This Helmsley grant is designed to promote collaborative interdisciplinary research that will yield new diagnostic tools, therapeutics and preventive measures for a broad range of disorders. Amazing discoveries in diabetes, neuroscience and cancer have already been made since the original grant three years ago, resulting in two clinical trials. The impact of this support is remarkable and the Salk Institute is very grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for sponsoring this highly productive partnership.

With support from the existing Helmsley grant, the Salk Institute launched its successful Salk Fellows program in 2014. To date, the program has brought three scientists from broad disciplines to the Institute to trigger innovation and collaboration in single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, three-dimensional genomic organization and the gene editing technology known as CRISPR. The current Helmsley-Salk Fellows have each garnered a prestigious Director's Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health.

In 2009, Helmsley awarded a $5.5 million grant to establish the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics to study nutrition at the molecular level and its impact on the role of metabolism in diabetes, obesity, cancer, exercise physiology and lifespan. Helmsley expanded support with an additional $15 million grant in 2010 to create a collaborative stem cell project involving Salk and Columbia University to fast-track the use of induced pluripotent stem cells to gain new insight into disease mechanisms and screen for novel therapeutic drugs.

Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn says the funding is vital for the pursuit of transformative research that will have worldwide impact on people's health for generations to come. "The Helmsley Charitable Trust has made extraordinary gifts to support Salk science over the past decade," says Blackburn. "We are tremendously grateful to Helmsley for their commitment to improve health and for supporting pioneering research here at the Institute."

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About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Every cure has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk's mission to dare to make dreams into reality. Its internationally renowned and award-winning scientists explore the very foundations of life, seeking new understandings in neuroscience, genetics, immunology and more. The Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Be it cancer or Alzheimer's, aging or diabetes, Salk is where cures begin. Learn more at salk.edu.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust:

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health, place-based initiatives, and education and human services. Since beginning its grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $1.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. For more information, visit http://www.helmsleytrust.org.

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