Hess Corporation is investing big in the Salk Institute effort to, quite literally, root out climate change.
Earlier this month, Salk announced that Hess is donating $50 million toward the institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative, which seeks to mitigate climate change by encouraging the capture and storage of carbon in plants.
“We are extremely grateful to Hess Corporation for funding these critical areas of need for not only the Institute, but for the future of plant science research. This gift comes at the ideal time, as climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing the health of humanity and our planet,” said Salk President and professor Rusty Gage. “Their forward-thinking generosity will pay dividends for future generations to come.”
Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative is led by professor and founding director Joanne Chory and is comprised of two projects. The Coastal Plant Restoration Project identifies and restores wetland plants that thrive in various environments around the world, retain carbon, as well as purify water.
In the second project – CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale – scientists are developing Salk Ideal Plants to capture potentially billions of tons of atmospheric carbon and store it in broader and deeper roots rich in molecules such as suberin.
“By enhancing plants’ inherent capacity to capture and retain carbon, it is possible to cultivate plants that not only aid in mitigating carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but also enhance soil quality and augment crop yields,” Chory said. “The prospects of this approach in combatting climate change at a global scale are thrilling, and we are thankful to Hess Corporation for enabling us to escalate our efforts.”
Major Fundraising Campaign
The Hess donation to the Harnessing Plants Initiative is part of Salk’s seven-year Campaign for Discovery: The Power of Science to raise $750 million to attract researchers, develop technology and build space needed to accelerate critical research at the institute.
The Hess funding will go toward establishing the new Hess Center for Plant Science that will be located within the future Joan and Irwin Jacobs Science and Technology Center building – a 100,000-square-foot facility planned for the east side of the Institute’s campus that will house four Centers of Excellence, including the Hess Center for Plant Science. The new facility will provide the Harnessing Plants Initiative team with opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and the ability to leverage leading-edge technologies in computational biology.
“Salk experts are making impactful discoveries on a regular basis, combining genetics, epigenetics, computational biology, and other disciplines to understand how a plant’s genes determine the way a plant grows in an ever-changing environment. When these scientists find they need technology that doesn’t yet exist, they often build it themselves,” said Salk Chief Science Officer and President-Designate Gerald Joyce. “This gift will certainly accelerate the bold work being done by our talented group of plant scientists. We deeply appreciate the Hess Corporation for their continued generosity and partnership.”
The $50 million gift from Hess follows a $12.5 million gift in 2020 and a $3 million gift in 2021 that accelerated the science of plant-based carbon capture and storage and established the endowed Hess Chair in Plant Science at Salk.
This latest Hess Corporation gift will be dispersed over five years to support laboratory and research operations and recruit faculty for the Harnessing Plants Initiative. Professor Wolfgang Busch will serve as executive director and is also named Hess Chair in Plant Science. Other faculty members participating in the initiative include Salk faculty members Joseph Noel, Julie Law, Todd Michael and Joseph Ecker.
“The Harnessing Plants Initiative is a potential game changer in tackling the global challenge of climate change,” said Hess CEO John Hess. “We are honored to support this innovative research led by Harnessing Plants Initiative leaders Joanne Chory and Wolfgang Busch. We believe this groundbreaking work will implement scientific breakthroughs on a global scale and can make a major contribution toward achieving the world’s ambition to reach net zero emissions.”
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
President: Rusty Gage, Ph.D.
Headquarters: La Jolla
Business: Research institute
Notable: Since its inception, six Salk Institute researchers have been awarded the Nobel Prize.