The Salk Institute for Biological Studies has received its largest-ever grant, $42 million to establish a research center for decoding common genetic factors among chronic human diseases.
The funds were awarded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, named after the deceased New York hotel and commercial real estate tycoons.
Leona Helmsley gained notoriety even after her death for leaving $12 million of her multi-billion dollar trust to her Maltese dog named Trouble. The courts reduced that amount to $2 million before Trouble died in 2010.
The Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine will support research in various disciplines that could lead to new treatment for cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, according to the Salk Institute.
"It will provide vital funding to enable our scientists to pursue the kinds of transformative scientific discoveries and advancements that will have worldwide impact on people's health for generations to come," said Salk President William Brody. "With its scale and unique focus on supporting vitally important basic scientific research, the Helmsley Charitable Trust stands among philanthropy's vanguard in promoting innovative cross-disciplinary initiatives such as this one."
Researchers who specialize in stem cell biology, endocrinology, cancer biology, metabolism, neurobiology, developmental biology, inflammation, and gene therapy will work at the center to learn about the molecular and genetic mechanisms that go awry in chronic disease.
The Helmsley Trust, with $4 billion in assets, has given away around $800 million since 2008 for health research, ending poverty, education, conservation and support of Israel.
Trustee John Codey said the trust decided to establish the center at Salk because of the institute's long track record of ground-breaking discoveries and the growing need to address chronic diseases.
"Millions of people suffer from chronic illnesses, and these diseases are placing an unsustainable burden on our healthcare system," Codey said. "The Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine will help to address this by serving as an incubator for tomorrow's clinical treatments and cures."
Salk scientist Inder Verma said the center will include state-of-the-art technology and foster collaboration that would not be possible at individual laboratories.