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More than 50 Years of Biomedical Research

In 2011, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its focus on biomedical research.

TSRI today is the culmination of the inspiration, vision, and hard work of many dedicated people over the decades. The roots of the institution reach back to 1924, when Ellen Browning Scripps founded the Scripps Metabolic Clinic in La Jolla, California, to diagnose, treat, and investigate diabetes and other disorders of metabolism.

In the 1950s, with the country's burgeoning interest in the scientific enterprise, members of the institution's administration were at the forefront of the new trend, committing resources to build a major new research facility and courting noted biomedical researchers from around the country to join them in their ambitious endeavor.

Among those accepting the challenge was pioneering immunologist Frank Dixon, who arrived from the University of Pittsburgh with scientists William Weigle, Joseph Feldman, Charles Cochrane, and Jacinto Vazquez, seven postdoctoral fellows, and about 20 support staff in 1961. The scientists were looking for a place where they could do research full time, without excessive bureaucracy or burdensome requirements to teach, do rounds, or serve on committees—a place where science came first.

At the time, La Jolla was virtually unknown on the East Coast. "Our friends and colleagues in the East all told us we'd be back in a year," recalls Cochrane, now Scripps Research professor emeritus.

They were wrong. Instead, Dixon and colleagues' establishment of the Division of Experimental Pathology at Scripps created a critical mass that—with researchers such as biochemist Frank Huennekens, arriving in 1962 to head the Division of Biochemistry Division, and microbiologist John Spizizen, arriving in 1965 to found the Division of Microbiology—soon became a notable research enterprise.

Half a century later, this enterprise has become the internationally renowned institution known as The Scripps Research Institute, at the forefront of basic biomedical science seeking to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. With 3,000 employees, campuses in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida, and a graduate program ranked among the top ten in the nation, the institute's list of scientific and educational achievements is long. Discoveries coming out of the institute have spanned from a life-saving leukemia treatment to revolutionary new drug discovery tools. (See Scientific Achievements.)

Now, TSRI scientists, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students are working toward the next 50 years of extraordinary scientific achievements.

For more information, see News&Views article “Cornerstones: Lessons from 48 Years of Extraordinary History” (March 23, 2009) and Important Dates in Scripps Research Institute History.