Letter from the CEO and the President
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Letter from the CEO and the President

It is our great pleasure to send you our season’s greetings! We appreciate the warm welcome we have received in our new roles here at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

As the many discoveries at TSRI in 2015 demonstrate, the science at the Institute continues to be outstanding. In addition to, and intertwined with, contributions in basic biology and chemistry, our scientists’ findings during the year advanced new approaches to diseases including Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune conditions, HIV, influenza, addiction and cancer, among others. One of these studies—in which Michael Farzan and team described a drug candidate that neutralizes a wide variety of HIV virus strains and provides vaccine-like protection in animal models—was recently named among the top science stories of the year by Discover magazine.

Underlining the relevance of TSRI’s research, a new “innovation indicator” from the Times of Higher Education (based on papers cited in patent applications) ranked the Institute first in the world. This year, TSRI can also boast of 20 Science, Nature or Cell papers, 42 unique U.S. patent applications and six spin-off companies.

TSRI researchers again received numerous awards and honors in 2015, including Matt Disney’s NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Donna Blackmond’s American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award and Ryan Shenvi’s Novartis Early Career Award. In addition, 12 TSRI faculty members were named among Thomson Reuters’ “Highly Cited Researchers.”

We are pleased to report TSRI’s philanthropic support grew over the last year, including a number of major gifts. In addition to the generous $12.5 million challenge grant from an anonymous donor for the proposed La Jolla campus laboratory building complex, long-time supporter Helen Dorris gave $5.65 million, enhancing the endowment for the Dorris Neuroscience Center at TSRI. Philanthropist Samuel Yin pledged $3 million to support training and studies of anti-infective agents, joined by philanthropist and biotech entrepreneur Jane H. Hsiao, who pledged $1.5 million for activities in the Wong lab.

In Palm Beach County, Norma and Leonard Klorfine gave $900,000 in 2015, raising their total contributions to Scripps Florida to $1.2 million. In addition, grants totaling up to $10.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided support for two HIV/AIDS research projects on the Florida and California campuses.

Looking forward, we are working extremely hard to position the Institute for long-term financial stability and for sustaining our scientific profile. We have made a number of significant contacts with new potential donors and are optimistic about continuing the positive trajectory of philanthropic support for our outstanding programs. We have been very active in discussions of alliances with several potential new partners and are currently exploring such alliances as a way of building a new and unique bench-to-bedside model for translational research and for enriching our faculty’s research programs, as well as contributing to the financial health of TSRI. We are examining, in detail, the draft plans for a new set of buildings on Scripps California’s Hazen campus and will consult with faculty to quickly develop the scientific themes for the project. We are also engaging with a broad swath of faculty, from Assistant Professors to Department Chairs, across the entire Institute, to garner feedback on how we will shape the scientific direction of TSRI in the years to come. We hope to have many more specific news items for you in the coming months.

Thank you to faculty, staff, students, postdocs, supporters and friends of the Institute for your contributions. We look forward to working with you in the coming year to enhance TSRI’s work at the cutting edge of biomedical discovery and its impact on human health.

—Peter Schultz and Steve Kay

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CEO Peter Schultz (top) and President Steve Kay send their season's greetings. (Photos by John Dole, Max S. Gerber.)