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Of Note

Marisa Roberto Wins MERIT Award

Marisa Roberto, professor at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has been awarded a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, for work to understand how alcohol affects the brain and how stress, anxiety and excessive alcohol consumption interact to promote alcohol dependence.

According to the NIH, the MERIT (Method to Extend Research In Time) Award provides long-term grant support to investigators “whose research competence and productivity are distinctly superior.” As long as criteria of excellence are met, the researchers are freed for up to 10 years from the competitive grant renewal process.

Roberto’s NIAAA project will further extend her research on endocannabinoid signalizing in the amygdala and regulation of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), the stress peptide involved in the body’s stress response, to provide novel insights into the innate susceptibility to develop alcoholism.

She hopes the findings will contribute to the development of new therapeutic agents to alleviate alcohol dependence.

For additional on information on Roberto’s research, visit her faculty webpage or the Roberto lab website.

Susana Valente Wins Campbell Foundation Grant

TSRI Associate Professor Susana Valente has received a $79,151 grant from The Campbell Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting alternative, nontraditional, clinical and laboratory-based avenues of research in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

“The Campbell Foundation has always focused on providing grants for novel and groundbreaking research. Dr. Valente and her Scripps team certainly fit the criteria,” said The Campbell Foundation’s Executive Director Ken Rapkin.

Valente’s research is unique in that the team’s goal is to “deep freeze” the HIV virus in the genome to eradicate the latent viral reservoir. This approach is different from others that have been designed to activate the latent virus and then kill it.

Specifically, the team is exploring the potential targeting of a highly potent activator of HIV production known as the Tat protein for which there are currently no available drugs. Valente and her team are looking at didehydro-Cortistatin A (dCA), a novel molecule closely related to a natural product isolated from a marine sponge, that may reduce the size of the latent HIV reservoir pool by blocking ongoing viral replication, reactivation and replenishment.

For additional information on Valente’s research, visit her faculty webpage or the Valente lab website.

TSRI Community Celebrates Eng Tan’s 90th Birthday

On August 18, friends and colleagues gathered for presentations and a reception to celebrate the 90th birthday of Eng Tan, professor emeritus at TSRI and a world-renowned immunologist and rheumatologist.

“Eng has been a great mentor to many of us here today,” said TSRI Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine K. Michael Pollard, who has worked with Tan since 1982. “Those of us gathered here at TSRI as well as all of his colleagues and friends around the world wish him a happy 90th.

Tan arrived at TSRI in 1967 and spent the majority of his career at the institution, leading the Division of Allergy and Immunology and later serving as leader of the Division of Rheumatology and the W. M. Keck Autoimmune Disease Center, Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine. In that time, Tan published pioneering research on diseases such as lupus and systemic sclerosis and trained close to 100 fellows. Tan’s birthday celebration included a number of his former fellows and colleagues from across the country, as well as Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.

“I am deeply touched,” Tan told the group. “I have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent at Scripps.”

White Rhino Collaboration Draws Young Scientists

frozen zoo
The Northern White Rhino Stem Cell Project, a collaboration between Professor Jeanne Loring’s laboratory at TSRI and the Frozen Zoo® at San Diego Zoo Global, recently drew a group of students from the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, CA. The students hope to develop a science project based on their visit.  Above, Thomas Nguyen (center), a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine intern in the Loring lab, explains laboratory safety measures to students, while Postdoctoral Associate Marisa Korody, who leads the zoo’s efforts for the Rhino project, looks on. (Photo by Cindy Brauer.)

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Professor Marisa Roberto has received a MERIT award from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction. (Photo by BioMedical Graphics.)

Associate Professor Susana Valente receives support for “novel and groundbreaking” HIV/AIDS research from Campbell Foundation Trustee Bill Venuti, while Research Associate Joseph Jablonski, Jr. looks on.

Friends and colleagues recently feted renowned TSRI immunologist Eng Tan at his 90th birthday celebration. Above, Tan (left) visits with TSRI Assistant Professor Natalia Reixach during the event. (Photo by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)