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Letter from the President
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Letter from the President

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Happy holidays! It is hard to believe another year is coming to an end. 2013 was certainly a full one and that certainly helped it speed by. Margaret and I got our son, Matt, off to the University of Denver this fall and we are now happily living full time in La Jolla. Although the Southwest flight attendants might miss me—no disrespect intended—I will not be missing them!

Our faculty, staff and students should be proud of their many achievements in 2013. The research was remarkable, including 11 Science and 10 Nature papers, and findings ranging from a detailed three-dimensional picture of a key HIV protein to a long-sought method to efficiently synthesize a complex natural product with great anticancer potential. Of course, important science is published in many journals, but the numbers of high-profile publications from our scientists are remarkable.

The high quality of our faculty and their work was also acknowledged with numerous honors, including, to name just a few, Phil Baran’s selection for a MacArthur Fellowship, Ardem Patapoutian’s appointment as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Donna Blackmond’s election to the National Academy of Engineering.

While the government shutdown and limited federal funding for research created a challenging environment for conducting science, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) clearly remained a force at the intersection of chemistry and biology.

With the support of our Board of Trustees and under the guidance of David Blinder, who joined TSRI as senior vice president for external affairs in March, we have continued to step up our efforts to create a culture and infrastructure that supports philanthropy for the important work being conducted at TSRI.

Among the year’s major gifts was a $2 million contribution from John Moores, former chair of TSRI’s Board of Trustees, to fund development of a revolutionary new field test for Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, a parasitic infection that affects tens of millions of people in tropical regions. We are also grateful to Rich and Helen DeVos, who renewed their support of the graduate program at Scripps Florida by pledging $1.25 million for attracting, enriching and retaining outstanding PhD students. Thank you to these donors and to everyone who made gifts to the institute, whatever the amount.
Federal grants to TSRI this year included a five-year $29 million renewal of the Clinical and Translational Science Award, funding the Scripps Translational Science Institute’s research in genomics, wireless technology and bioinformatics for individualized medicine. The National Institutes of Health also awarded a five-year, $10.6 million grant to investigators on the Florida campus to decipher the root causes of human aging.

During the past year, we continued to leverage our intellectual capital and property, launching a five-year partnership with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to collaborate on focused research projects in the infectious disease area and inking an agreement with Sigma-Aldrich® to fund research and streamline access to our researchers’ discoveries for the synthesis and analysis of potential drugs. Corporate partnerships also included the expansion of a collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company to search for new drug targets for a variety of diseases.

Setting the stage for the future, we have begun to shape new strategic initiatives for the institute, which seek to consolidate several centers of excellence at TSRI. While the details are still being worked out, the following bi-coastal groups are taking shape:

  • Addiction Research Center of Excellence
  • Alzheimer’s and Brain Disease Initiative
  • Anti-Cancer Campaign
  • Healthy Aging Initiative
  • Initiative against Diabetes and Obesity
  • Vaccine and Global Health Initiative

These areas will serve as a platform for philanthropy and I look forward to partnering with investigators and other key people to develop and promote these areas of excellence.

On the California campus, we are in the process of consolidating our physical space. This month, the graduate program offices and some members of the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology are moving into the buildings adjacent to the Auditorium at TSRI. Soon also to operate in that space is our powerful new Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope, which will provide our investigators with outstanding three-dimensional imaging and analysis capabilities.

In Florida, as we successfully complete the start-up phase of the campus, we look forward to festivities to mark our 10th anniversary in the state, including a gala luncheon on Thursday, February 6. In a single decade, the Florida campus has grown from an idea to a thriving center of research and education with deep roots as a community partner. There is much to celebrate.
Thanks to you all—faculty, staff, students, postdocs, supporters and friends of the institute—for making this year’s achievements possible and for helping usher in a promising new year for 2014.



Michael A. Marletta

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