Janelle Ayres wins Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists

Janelle Ayres of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has won the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists, one of the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career scientists. Ayres is the laureate in the category of life sciences, and will be awarded $250,000 for her pioneering research.

“Janelle is one of the most original thinkers in the field of infectious disease research,” says Salk President Rusty Gage. “Her pioneering work on microbes has the potential to change human health in fundamental ways. We are elated the Blavatnik Foundation has recognized Janelle’s past accomplishments and future promise with this prestigious award.”

Spearheaded by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, the Blavatnik National Awards recognize both the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented scientific and engineering researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions.

Working at the intersection of immunology and microbiology, Ayres’ pioneering research on host-pathogen interactions is redefining our understanding of health. Ayres’ discovery that microbes have evolved mechanisms to promote the health of the host to support their own survival reveals a beneficial role for microbes in maintenance of host health. Promoting host “tolerance” of microbes may offer a novel therapeutic approach to treating infections that is not reliant on antibiotics.

Ayres is associate professor at the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and the Helen McLoraine Developmental Chair at the Salk Institute. Located in La Jolla, California, Salk is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to basic research in the biological sciences — and is one of the foremost institutions of its kind in the world.

Janelle Ayres is finalist for 2018 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists

Janelle Ayres of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been named by the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists as one of 31 US national finalists for the world’s largest unrestricted prizes for early career scientists. Every year, three Blavatnik National Laureates in the categories of life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences & engineering are awarded $250,000 each.

The Blavatnik national finalists were selected from 286 outstanding faculty-rank researchers nominated by 146 institutions across 42 states. These institutions comprise the nation’s leading academic and research centers, and each is requested to name their single most promising candidate in one or all of the three categories.

Spearheaded by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, the Blavatnik National Awards recognize both the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented scientific and engineering researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions. The three 2018 National Laureates will be announced on June 27, 2018.

Working at the intersection of immunology and microbiology, Ayres’ pioneering research on host-pathogen interactions is redefining our understanding of health. Ayres’ discovery that microbes have evolved mechanisms to promote the health of the host to support their own survival reveals a beneficial role for microbes in maintenance of host health. Promoting host “tolerance” of microbes may offer a novel therapeutic approach to treating infections that is not reliant on antibiotics.

Ayres is associate professor at the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and the Helen McLoraine Developmental Chair at the Salk Institute. Located in La Jolla, California, Salk is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to basic research in the biological sciences — and is one of the foremost institutions of its kind in the world.

AEA: “Understanding the economic brain: What can economics and social neuroscience learn from one another?”

The work of NOMIS scientist Carlos Alós-Ferrer has been highlighted in an article by the American Economic Association (AEA). Alós-Ferrer emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary research between economists and social neuroscientists to increase our understanding of human behavior. The article, “Understanding the economic brain: What can economics and social neuroscience learn from one another?” pinpoints the opportunities for collaboration between the two fields.

This collaboration potential was the topic of Alós-Ferrer’s paper in the March issue of the Journal of Economic Literature. Fundamentally connected, these disciplines can be strengthened by sharing tools, methodologies and insights.

“When we study society, whether or not we want to, we are studying the brain,” Alós-Ferrer said in an interview with the AEA.

Alós-Ferrer is the NOMIS Professor for Decision and Neuroeconomic Theory at the University of Zurich.

Carlos Alós-Ferrer named NOMIS Professor for Decision and Neuroeconomic Theory at the University of Zurich

Carlos Alós-Ferrer has been appointed NOMIS Professor for Decision and Neuroeconomic Theory at the University of Zurich (UZH) in Switzerland. He is an economist who, prior to joining UZH, was professor of microeconomics at the University of Cologne, Germany, and the speaker of the interdisciplinary research unit “Psychoeconomics,” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). He studied mathematics at the University of Valencia, Spain, and received his PhD in Economics at the University of Alicante, Spain, in 1998.

Alós-Ferrer has conducted research on game theory and mathematical economics, and has a strong interest in neuroeconomics (also known as psychoeconomics), the interdisciplinary field that combines psychology, economics and neuroscience to study human decision making.

The goal of neuroeconomics is to provide a foundation for the study of underlying neural processes of decision-making within today’s economic environment. Essential to the further progress of this field is the construction of empirically informed, testable models that connect the level of neural and mental processes underlying decision-making with the descriptive models of choice that characterize modern economics. Through this professorship, Alós-Ferrer will draw on the collaborative, interdisciplinary expertise at UZH to develop viable models with the potential to have a significant impact on the field of neuroeconomics.

The NOMIS Professorship for Decision and Neuroeconomic Theory is a result of a long-term partnership among the Department of Economics at UZH, the Excellence Foundation and the NOMIS Foundation.

Jacob Corn named Professor of Genome Biology at ETH Zurich

Jacob Corn has been appointed Professor of Genome Biology at ETH Zurich. Corn is the founding scientific director of the Innovative Genomics Institute and adjunct assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His research aims to bring about the end of genetic disease through the development and application of next-generation genome editing technologies — improving human health through the fundamental understanding of disease mechanisms.

Corn’s experience extends to therapeutic areas that include infectious disease, neurobiology and oncology, and his work has redefined our understanding of DNA replication. He computationally designed protein inhibitors from scratch and discovered biological mechanisms for challenging therapeutic targets.

The key objective of the ETH professorship, which is funded by NOMIS in cooperation with the Lotte und Adolf Hotz-Sprenger Stiftung, is to study the functional elements encoded in complex genomes through comparative analysis, seeking to deepen our understanding of how the genetic variation in the human population is related to disease susceptibility.

Corn is exploring processes that detect and repair damage to DNA, using these findings to repair, switch on or off, or replace genes in the genome at a defined position. This knowledge is important for both therapeutic use as well as basic and applied research.

Salk Institute: “Alzheimer’s drug turns back clock in powerhouse of cell”

Salk researchers have identified the molecular target of J147. The experimental drug is something of a modern elixir of life; it’s been shown to treat Alzheimer’s disease and reverse aging in mice and is almost ready for clinical trials in humans. Now, Salk scientists have solved the puzzle of what, exactly, J147 does. In a paper published January 7, 2018, in the journal Aging Cell, they report that the drug binds to a protein found in mitochondria, the energy-generating powerhouses of cells. In turn, they showed, it makes aging cells, mice and flies appear more youthful.

“This really glues together everything we know about J147 in terms of the link between aging and Alzheimer’s,” says Dave Schubert, head of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory and the senior author on the new paper. “Finding the target of J147 was also absolutely critical in terms of moving forward with clinical trials.”

Schubert’s group developed J147 in 2011, after screening for compounds from plants with an ability to reverse the cellular and molecular signs of aging in the brain. J147 is a modified version of a molecule (curcumin) found in the curry spice turmeric. In the years since, the researchers have shown that the compound reverses memory deficits, potentiates the production of new brain cells, and slows or reverses Alzheimer’s progression in mice. However, they didn’t know how J147 worked at the molecular level.

In the new work, led by Schubert and Salk Research Associate Josh Goldberg, the team used several approaches to home in on what J147 is doing. They identified the molecular target of J147 as a mitochondrial protein called ATP synthase that helps generate ATP—the cell’s energy currency—within mitochondria. They showed that by manipulating its activity, they could protect neuronal cells from multiple toxicities associated with the aging brain. Moreover, ATP synthase has already been shown to control aging in C. elegans worms and flies.

The Salk Institute has been a NOMIS partner since 2008.

Related news
Aging Cell
ScienceDaily