Salk Institute biochemistry
Gerald Joyce. Photo credit: Courtesy, Salk Institute

The Salk Institute in La Jolla has named biochemist Gerald Joyce, a pioneer in the field of in vitro evolution, as its next president following an extensive six-month search.

Joyce, who has served as the institute’s senior vice president and chief science officer
since July, will succeed Rusty Gage, who is set to return to his genetics lab full-time.

In a statement, Marna C. Whittington, chair of Salk’s Board of Trustees, called Gage’s “most indelible mark” his “remarkable success in fostering a much more unified, collaborative and inclusive community within our campus.” She cited the establishment of Salk’s first Office of Equity and Inclusion and his response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic during his tenure.

Joyce, she said, has a “unique combination of scientific, administrative and leadership experience … along with his inspiring vision for a future built on forward-looking scientific opportunity, a strengthened financial foundation and deep commitment to diversity,
equity and inclusion” which made him the right person to take the reins at Salk.

Tanya Sharpee, faculty leader of Salk’s Academic Council, called the search “a robust and thoughtful process” in which “an array of highly qualified scientific luminaries” were considered to lead the institute. She noted how Joyce’s “one-Salk’ mindset” helped him stand out.

“With a boundless energy about the enormous possibility ahead, he understands the greater our connectivity and collaboration, the greater impact we will have – together,” she said.

Over the course of his distinguished career, Joyce has served as Dean of Faculty at the Scripps Research Institute and Director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, in addition to maintaining a lab at Salk since 2017.

The recipient of numerous prestigious awards, he is a member of the U.S. National
Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

“I am deeply honored to take on this role at what is an auspicious time for the Institute,” Joyce said. “With our incredibly talented team of scientists and administrators, we will continue to be a world leader in making high-impact scientific discoveries and forging new pathways for innovation across the biological sciences.”

Joyce completed his undergraduate work at the University of Chicago in 1978 and earned both an MD and PhD from UC San Diego in 1984.

He completed his postgraduate medical training at Mercy Hospital in San Diego and
postdoctoral research training at the Salk Institute before launching his independent research program in 1989.

Gage called it “an honor and privilege” to lead Salk while working “to be faithful stewards of a mission focused on bringing out the best in science and each other.” He also expressed confidence in Joyce.

“As I pass the baton, I have every confidence that our momentum will continue and, indeed, build under the extremely capable leadership of Jerry Joyce, whose multitude of professional accomplishments are only eclipsed by the magnitude of his personal character,” Gage said.