Scientists Create First Living Organism that Transmits Added Letters in DNA 'Alphabet'
Outsmarting Viruses: A Profile of Erica Ollmann Saphire
Symposium Tackles Question of How to Extend Human 'Healthspan'
Grant Funds Development of New Diagnostics for Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Colitis



In Brief

Kelvin Chan Receives GEN TEN Award

Kelvin Chan, a graduate student working in The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) lab of Professor Jin-Quan Yu, is one of just 10 recipients nationwide of a 2014 GEN TEN award for outstanding project abstracts in their fields of primary research. Sponsored by biotech publisher Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), the awards will be presented at this year’s BIO International Convention in June in San Diego.

An independent panel of experts selected the winners from more than 50 applicants representing universities and research institutions across the country.

Chan’s project is titled “Ligand-enabled cross-coupling of C(sp3)–H bonds with arylboron reagents via Pd(II)/Pd(0) catalysis.” His research is focused on developing new chemical methods for preparing unnatural amino acids. This allows for rapid generation of diverse libraries of novel amino acids and amino alcohols useful in chemical synthesis, and ultimately facilitates drug discovery and lead optimization pathways.

NIH Grant Supports TSRI Internship Program

Ten more students will be able to enroll in this year’s Scripps California summer internship program for undergraduates, boosting participation to 25, thanks to a recently awarded Research Education (R25) grant by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The five-year, $367,200 grant supports the development and implementation of an educational program that identifies and trains undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to conduct health-related or disease-based research at TSRI.

“By providing this experience, we hope to improve participants’ research and communication skills and encourage the most talented students to pursue careers in biomedical research,” said Dawn Eastmond, director of the Graduate Studies and Educational Outreach Programs and co-principal investigator for the NIH R25 grant.

TSRI’s education outreach programs provide hands-on laboratory experience and mentorship for promising high school and undergraduate students and middle and high school science teachers. The institute is especially committed to increasing the participation of female, underrepresented minority and first-generation college-bound students in the biomedical and chemical sciences.

Further information on TSRI educational outreach programs on both the California and Florida campuses is available on the institute’s website.

Kristin Baldwin to Speak at May 14 Faculty Lecture Series

Kristen Baldwin, associate professor and member of the Dorris Neuroscience Center at TSRI, is the featured speaker at the next Faculty Lecture Series presentation, Wednesday, May 14. Her lecture is titled “The Malleable Genome: Programming and Reprogramming Cell Fate.” The presentation will begin at 5 PM in the Timkin Amphitheater in the Green Hospital in La Jolla, California, followed by a reception in the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Building, first floor. For further information, see the Faculty Lecture Series webpage. The series is supported by an endowment from the Cochrane-Cartan families, established by TSRI Professor Emeritus Charles G. Cochrane.

CA Campus Urged to ‘Pass the Baton’ for Cancer Research
Faculty, students and staff on the Scripps California campus are encouraged to line up at TSRI’s Flame of Knowledge sculpture to hand off a specially designed, high-tech baton in the Siemens/Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Baton Pass fundraiser on Monday, May 12, 9 AM.

The SU2C campaign is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, co-sponsored by Siemens AG, to raise funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research.

In the local Torrey Pines event, a group of bikers led by John Towart, a cancer survivor and a director at Siemens Aerospace, Defense and Propulsion Services, will carry a baton on a course that includes stops at TSRI; University of California, San Diego; Salk; and Sanford-Burnham. At each stop, the cyclists will pass the GPS-equipped and exchange-tracking baton to each spectator; for every time the baton changes hands, Siemens has pledged a $1 donation to cancer research, up to $1 million.

Kathy Spencer, manager of the Dorris Neuroscience Center’s core microscopy resources at TSRI and a co-organizer of the event, will be among the bikers. “Cancer research is an important initiative here at TSRI, it seems only natural for us to be a part of this fundraising event,” said Spencer, who was motivated to get involved because she has lost several family members to the disease.

California Campus Offers Public Tours May 21

Offering the San Diego community a first-hand look at the future of medicine, the Scripps California campus will offer public tours of its facilities on Wednesday, May 21, at 11 AM and 2 PM. In the 45-minute tour, guests will visit selected research laboratories and meet with scientists for a brief presentation.

To register and for parking and meeting instructions, visit the tour webpage. For additional details, contact Nicholas Burchfield, (858) 784-2874.

TSRI Groups Select New Boards

The Scripps Florida Society of Research Fellows (SF-SRF) and the Scripps California Network for Women in Science (NWiS) have selected 2014 boards of directors.

SF-SRF board members, who are all research associates, are:

  • President – Reji Nair of TRI-Medicinal Chemistry.
  • Vice president, secretary, treasurer – Ignacio Sarria of the Martemyanov lab.
  • Distinguished lecture series chair – Sonali Deshpande of the Ja lab.
  • Vendor show chairs – Amy Clipperton-Allen and Youjun Chen of the Page lab.
  • Scientific symposium chair – Audrey Richard of the Choe lab.
  • Career development chair – Kristen Scott of the Cleveland lab.
  • Communications officer, socials co-chair – Cesare Orlandi of the Martemyanov lab.
  • Socials co-chair – Hari Bhaskara of the Karbstein lab.

The SF-SRF provides an institutional, academic, career, education and philanthropic forum for postdoctoral fellows on the Jupiter campus. The group’s activities include the annual ResearchFest, a distinguished lecture series, career speakers and workshops, travel award program and monthly happy hour socials. For further information on SF-SRF events and resources, visit its website.

Scripps California NWiS new executive board officers are:

  • Chair – Danielle Grotjahn, graduate student in the Encalada and Lander labs.
  • Vice chair – Alyson Smith, graduate student in the Encalada lab.
  • PR officer – Mila Elich, graduate student in the Paulson lab.
  • Treasurer, webpage administrator – Radhika Gopal, research associate in the Schneemann lab.

The CA NWiS board is committed in 2014 to strengthening the positive impact of female scientists at TSRI by promoting science advocacy to elected government officials to benefit scientists of both genders. The board also aims to foster relationships with female leaders at other San Diego area research institutions and in the biotechnology industry. Its monthly meetings are open to all members of the TSRI community. For further information about NWiS activities and resources, visit the group’s website.

Career Workshops: Scientific Skills, Teaching Science, Grant Writing

Upcoming workshops on both Scripps California and Florida campuses provide professional skill building and training for research associates and graduate students.

Scientific Skills Series

A bicoastal workshop, Scientific Proposal Writing, will present key components of successful proposals and the dynamics of proposal peer review. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 21, from 10 to 11:30 AM in California, in the Keck Amphitheater, and from 1 to 2:30 PM in Florida, in conference room B158.

The interactive workshop will include three lectures, followed by four weeks of independent proposal writing and mock study sessions focusing on improving critical thinking, reading and writing skills. Mike Matrone, program coordinator for the Career and Postdoctoral Services Office, will conduct the workshop. Registration is required.

Effective Teaching in the Sciences

The final session of this Scripps Florida series will cover formative and summative assessments in teaching science on Wednesday, May 21, from 3:30 to 5 PM in room B159. Sharon Joyce, CEO of Research Results Inc., an academic and human resources consulting firm, will conduct the session, discussing the design and use of effective teaching and learning assessments. The series is sponsored by the Scripps Florida Graduate Program and the Society of Research Fellows.

Mentored Grant Writing

A Basics of Mentored Grant Writing workshop, part of this year’s spring Grantsmanship and Funding Fest series presented by the Torrey Pines Training Consortium, will be held on Friday, May 23, noon to 2 PM, in the Leichtage Building, room 107, on the University of California (UC), San Diego campus.

Conducted by UC San Diego Professor Peter Wagner, the session will cover the various types of grants and their structure and components, including abstracts, aims, methods and budgets. The event is open to the entire TSRI community.

The Torrey Pines Training Consortium is a collaboration of TSRI, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Sanford–Burnham Medical Research Institute and UC San Diego.

Meet the Alumni: Petra Verdino of Eli Lilly and Company

Scripps California postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are invited to hear Petra Verdino, senior research scientist at Eli Lilly and Company, share her career experiences at the next Meet the Alumni event on Wednesday, May 21, from 4 to 5 PM in the Faculty Club Library Room.

A former postdoctoral fellow in the Wilson lab, Verdino now works in protein engineering and novel protein therapeutics to treat diabetes. Prior to her position at Eli Lilly, she was a research scientist and project team leader at AnaptysBio Inc., directing a team that developed therapeutic antibodies for treatment of muscle-wasting diseases and fibrosis.

Sponsored by the Career and Postdoctoral Services Office, Meet the Alumni events feature guest speakers from the growing TSRI network of alumni, presented in a relaxed, informal setting. Speakers discuss career-influencing decisions and options, offering advice on career transitions.

Light refreshments will be served. RSVP is required.

CA Biosafety Committee Meeting Materials Due May 30

The TSRI Institutional Biosafety Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, June 11, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM, in the DAR Conference Room. To receive committee consideration, registration documents must be submitted to Environmental Health & Safety via email to by Friday, May 30.

At the Auditorium: Spotlight Chamber Music

Mainly Mozart’s Spotlight Chamber Music series will present a concert featuring two acclaimed ensembles, the Orion String Quartet and the Windscape quintet, on Saturday, May 17, 7:30 PM, following a pre-concert reception at 6:30 PM. The groups will perform Bach’s Art of the Fugue and works by Mozart and Dvorak. Ticket and program information is available at the Mainly Mozart website.

Send comments to: mikaono[at]

TSRI graduate student Kelvin Chan won a 2014 GEN TEN award presented by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News for outstanding project abstracts. (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)

















































































FL Campus Cleans Up for Earth Day
fl earthday
Twenty Scripps Florida volunteers filled 15 30-gallon bags with trash and litter along a section of road adjacent to the campus during the Green Team’s Adopt a Spot clean-up event on last month’s Earth Day. Participants included, left, Michael Johnson, EH&S technician, and Eddy Baptiste, custodian services supervisor