Letter from the President
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Letter from the President

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The end of 2012 is fast approaching. As you reflect on your own accomplishments, I hope you look back on the year with pleasure and look forward to 2013 with optimism. My year was certainly an interesting one! Many told me the first year would be the most challenging. I hope they are correct! If nothing else, I am an optimist and so I write about the past year and plans for the second.

Looking back on the year, I am most proud of the many achievements of our faculty, staff and students. The research was remarkable, including 11 Science papers and 7 Nature papers, and a range of findings from discovering a critical tumor suppressor to expanding our understanding of memory. Of course, there is a lot more to quality science than Science and Nature, but the numbers of our high-profile publications are nothing short of remarkable.

I am delighted to be working with Peter K. Vogt in his new role as executive vice president and chief scientific officer. We have had very positive feedback on the recently announced department reorganization, which aims to better support faculty and build on the strengths of the institute. In the coming year, we look forward to working with department chairs from both coasts in a monthly forum that encourages an open exchange of ideas and communication with the faculty.

While the tightening of federal funding continues to create a challenging environment for conducting science, at TSRI there is room for plenty of optimism.

In 2012, was a great year for large grants. New National Institutes of Health awards included $77 million toward the development of a HIV/AIDS vaccine (Dennis Burton), $22.5 million to uncover the workings of the immune system (Richard Ulevitch), $20 million to support an initiative to better understand HIV drug resistance (Art Olson), and $10.2 million to develop new treatments for vision loss caused by retinal vascular diseases (Marty Friedlander).

In addition, while TSRI’s first-rights deal with Pfizer expired at the end of last year, we continue to be successful in leveraging our intellectual capital and property. The new five-year, multi-lab collaboration in drug discovery and synthesis with Bristol-Myers Squibb is one example of how we continue to engage corporate partners. Others include the licensing of high-throughput screening technology to Brooks Automation and an agreement for OPKO Health to develop a compound that blocks destruction of brain cells in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Other multi-year collaborations are currently being negotiated. 

Philanthropy is perhaps the key piece of our way forward. Over the past year, we have made progress creating the culture and infrastructure to support philanthropy at TSRI. We began to rebuild the Office of Philanthropy by hiring staff focusing on planned giving and corporate and foundation relations. In addition, we have brought in a highly regarded external consultant to advise us on our structure, help to develop a strategic plan and assist us in preparing for a major fundraising campaign. Our Board of Trustees also will be vital in supporting our greater emphasis on philanthropy; in the past year, I have been pleased by the increasing engagement of our board, including the enthusiasm and commitment of our newest trustees.

Among this year’s generous gifts was a $2 million donation from Clare O’Keeffe and the Esther B. O’Keeffe Charitable Foundation to fund biomedical research and education on the Florida campus. In addition, building on several years of continuous support, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust recently gave $1 million in support of Scripps Florida’s education outreach programs. Thank you to these donors—and to everyone who made gifts to the institute, whatever the amount. This support is especially important in supporting high-risk, high-return research and in advancing emerging fields.

I look forward to many new accomplishments on both campuses in 2013. With more than a dozen new faculty members and their groups joining the Florida campus over the last year, we are on track to meet our final targets and establish the campus as a thriving research center. In California, we are being opportunistic in hiring and some exciting possibilities are in play. We are also carefully weighing options for the configuration of the California campus to bring our investigators closer together to facilitate interaction. Ideally, those of us on the west side of N. Torrey Pines would walk through the tunnel and see the rest of our campus within a short walk from there.

On a personal note, in 2013 I look forward to realizing the plans for my wife, Margaret, to join me in San Diego once our son, Matt, graduates from Berkeley High School and makes his transition to college. The San Diego community is vital and welcoming, and I am proud to call it home.

Happy holidays and thank you all—faculty, staff, students, postdocs and friends of the institute—for making our 2012 achievements possible and for helping usher in a promising new year.



Michael A. Marletta

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Michael A. Marletta is president and CEO of The Scripps Research Institute. (Photo by Michael Balderas.)