The Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine will enable scientists in a range of fields — including stem cell biology, endocrinology, cancer biology, metabolism, neurobiology, developmental biology, inflammation, and gene therapy — to explore how certain cellular pathways serve as lynchpins for chronic diseases — work that could lead to new therapy targets. For example, by observing that the cellular pathways involved in inflammation play a role in a range of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease, scientists now believe that developing therapies to address inflammation could help prevent or be used to treat a broad range of disorders.
Scientists at the new center also will study how genomic networks control stem cell development, with the aim of enabling researchers to manipulate genes to make stem cells useful for studying disease and regenerative medicine; as well as how disease alters the epigenome, chemical switches on the DNA molecule that influence genetic activity and may explain why patients with similar genetic profiles respond differently to treatment.
The largest grant in the Salk Institute's fifty-three-year history follows grants of $10 million from the Helmsley Trust in 2010 to create a collaborative stem cell project with Columbia University and $5.5 million in 2009 to establish the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics.
"Our philanthropic investment in Salk has produced tangible and impactful results, upon which this latest grant will build significantly," said Helmsley Charitable Trust trustee John Codey. "With the Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine we are partnering with Salk to tackle some of the most devastating diseases facing humankind."