Many scientists pursue a career in research because they have a fascination with nature and a burning curiosity to unravel its mysteries. Others want to help solve the many challenges facing humanity, and an increasing number want to do both.
The beauty of science is that it can fulfill all these aspirations. The drive to understand nature—to decipher its most complex and elusive facets—provides the fresh, new ideas we need to overcome our greatest problems. Hard-won scientific knowledge is a powerful tool for improving people’s lives.
In this edition of Scripps Research Magazine, you’ll read about an emerging field of research that exemplifies how the pursuit of a great scientific mystery can also hold significant potential benefits for humanity. Neuroscientists at Scripps Research are at the forefront of understanding how our heart, lungs, stomach and other internal organs communicate with our brain through specialized sensory neurons and neural circuits.
These internal communication networks are involved in a wide range of conscious and unconscious biological functions, from blood pressure regulation to sensations of hunger and thirst. They may even influence our mood and play a role in mental health. This exploratory work, while still in its early days, could well pave the way to new therapies targeting these mechanisms of brain-body communication. One aspect of this fundamental research has earned Ardem Patapoutian, PhD, a professor in our Dorris Neuroscience Center, the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In this issue, you will also find other examples of the scientific journey from discovery to application. These include ongoing efforts to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, such as research by Calibr, our drug discovery division, that identified FDA-approved drugs with potential for being repurposed or modified as anti-viral medicines. In another article, you’ll learn that ozanimod, a drug invented at Scripps Research and previously approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, was recently also approved for ulcerative colitis.
You’ll read about research paving the way to better therapies for autism and about the work of Howard Hang, PhD, a recent addition to our faculty, who studies the microbial communities that live in our bodies—the microbiome—with an eye to developing microbiome-based medicines. And you’ll read about how Scripps Research professor Jeffery Kelly, PhD, received the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for developing tafamidis, a transformational drug for those with cardiac myopathy.
By seamlessly merging foundational and applied science, Scripps Research offers some of the world’s most talented scientists the unique opportunity to pursue both their curiosity and their desire to better humanity. I firmly believe—as the stories in this issue show—that great things happen when they do.
Peter Schultz, PhD
President and CEO, Scripps Research