Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies more than 40 years ago. His goal was to create an institute that would serve as a "crucible for creativity" to pursue questions about the basic principles of life. He wanted biologists and others to work together to explore the wider implications of their discoveries for the future of humanity.
In 1959, Salk and architect Louis Kahn began a unique partnership to design a truly distinguished research facility. The March of Dimes, which has generously continued to support the Salk Institute over its history, provided the seed money. The San Diego City Council gifted the land where the facility is built -- a decision that was overwhelmingly approved and affirmed by the people of San Diego in a special referendum.
Today, the Salk Institute conducts its biological research under the guidance of 57 faculty investigators. It employs a scientific staff of more than 850, including visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students. Recruited throughout the world, this group receives advice from nine distinguished nonresident fellows—influential scientists at similar institutions throughout the world.
The major areas of study are: Molecular Biology and Genetics; Neurosciences; and Plant Biology. Knowledge acquired in Salk laboratories provides new understanding and potential new therapies and treatments for a range of diseases—from cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease, to cardiovascular disorders, anomalies of the brain and birth defects. Studies in plant biology at the Salk may one day help improve the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply.
With the completion of the Human Genome Project, the Salk Institute is strengthening its existing programs while also moving in exciting new directions. Six key areas represent strategic research priorities: Chemistry and Proteomics; Stem Cell Biology; Cell Biology; Regulatory Biology; Metabolic Research; and Computational and Theoretical Biology.
The Salk Institute consistently ranks among the leading research institutions in the world for its faculty’s contributions and the impact of their findings. The Institute has trained more than 2,000 scientists, many of whom have gone on to positions of leadership in other prominent research centers worldwide. Five scientists trained at the Institute have won Nobel prizes, and three current resident faculty members are Nobel Laureates.
Jonas Salk's vision, coupled with the hard work and dedication of former and present Salk investigators, has resulted in a unique environment where scientific discoveries have an important impact on our understanding of human health.
Basic research is truly “where cures begin.” Discoveries of the principles governing cellular activity have frequently illuminated the path toward therapies and cures. In this, Jonas Salk’s noble vision impels us still.