La Jolla Institute receives $1 million gift from Rancho Santa Fe couple

The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) has received a $1 million gift from RSF residents John Major, chairman of LJI’s Board of Directors, and his wife, Susan, marking a milestone in the Institute’s fundraising efforts.

“John and Sue have been tremendous advocates of the Institute’s mission to marshal the immune system’s power to improve health and prevent disease,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., the Institute’s president and chief scientific officer. “Their longstanding commitment and generosity are a compelling testament to the vital importance of the exemplary research our scientists are pursuing.”

“La Jolla Institute is a world-class organization that’s on the right track to create a world without disease,” said John Major. “It deserves all the energy and support we can provide.”

The landmark gift from Susan and John Major was instrumental in recruiting Ferhat Ay, Ph.D., an accomplished bioinformaticist, to La Jolla Institute. Ay, the inaugural holder of the Institute Leadership Professorship in Computational Biology, will carry out work to yield the power of informatics to extract potentially life-saving information from the tidal wave of genomic data generated in the Institute’s laboratories every day.

“Gaining a much more complete understanding of how the immune system works and how it can be manipulated to maintain good health will have a profound impact on the future of medicine,“ said Susan Major. “We couldn’t be more pleased to support the efforts of LJI’s world-renowned scientists to tap into the immune system’s power to enhance human health in ways we once could only dream about.”

A little more than three years ago, the La Jolla Institute launched its first outreach and fundraising effort to increase the Institute’s scientific and technological capabilities in understanding how the immune system works. The focus of this initiative has been to analyze the immune system by increasing LJI’s expertise in human genomics and bioinformatics—two rapidly growing fields that are crucial for putting the “personal” into personalized medicine by tailoring medical treatments to each patient’s unique biological profile.

Just as oncologists learned how to determine tumor-specific changes in an individual’s cancer, immunologists are gaining deeper insights into the significance of personal immune profiles and immune signatures, paving the way for more precisely targeted immunotherapies.

As part of the Institute’s initiative to expand its research at the intersection of immunology and precision medicine, Pandurangan Vijayanand (Vijay), M.D., Ph.D., was recently appointed to the position of associate professor in the Division of Vaccine Discovery. He uses new and innovative genomics tools to study the molecular profiles of circulating immune cells from patients with asthma and other diseases.

John Major is founder and president of MTSG, a private investment, consulting, and governance company. He currently serves on the boards of Littelfuse, Orbcomm, Resonant, Broadcom and Lennox Corporations. Mr. Major is chairman of the University of Illinois Chicago Engineering School Advisory Board and the Dean’s Advisory Committee of the University of Rochester Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Science. He joined the LJI Board of Directors in 2009 and was named chairman of the board in 2010.

Susan Major is the founder and CEO of Major Executive Search. Susan Major specializes in top-tier executive placements in the wireless, telecom, software and semiconductor sectors and serves enterprises of all sizes, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Prior to Major Executive Search, she worked for several top global technology companies, introducing numerous technology products, including two-way radios, cellular handsets and a first generation PDA while at Motorola. She also holds two patents in wireless messaging. An active community member, Susan Major serves on a number of private boards, including the Northeastern University Board of Overseers, the San Diego Zoo Global Foundation, the San Diego Girl Scouts Nominating Committee and the Global Technology Women’s Network.

For more information, visit www.liai.org.

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