Elizabeth Blackburn
New Salk Institute president Elizabeth Blackburn. Photo by Elizabeth Blackburn Rob Searcey

Salk Institute President Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn announced Thursday that she will retire and step down as the institute’s head at the end of the summer.

Blackburn, a 69-year-old Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, was chosen to head the prestigious scientific institute in November 2015. The institute said its board of trustees will begin a search for her successor in January.

“Being named to lead the Salk Institute unquestionably has been an honor of my life and this decision did not come without a great deal of thought,” said Blackburn. “At this stage in my career and life, I’ve concluded that my energies will be best devoted to wider issues of science policy and ethics.”

“For Salk, I believe this also is the right time to identify a new leader who can build on our many accomplishments over the last two years and ensure the positive momentum continues,” she added.

Blackburn’s retirement comes as the Salk is embroiled in gender equality lawsuits filed by three female scientists alleging that the institute undermined and marginalized its tenured female professors.

Dan Lewis, chairman of the board, praised Blackburn for “numerous, invaluable contributions to the institute,” including the SalkNext50 strategic planning effort and other organizational and financial improvements.

“We are grateful for her leadership and her commitment to ensuring the next several months build on that progress and that we are able to effect a smooth transition,” Lewis said.

The Salk Institute is one of the world’s preeminent basic-research institutions. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, the institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.