SAN DIEGO – (August 1st, 2012) – For the second time this year, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology has been ranked as one of the best places to work in the worldwide academic research community, according to surveys of research institutions conducted by The Scientist magazine.
In the latest recognition, announced today, the La Jolla Institute ranked in the top 10 in The Scientist’s annual “Best Places to Work in Academia” survey. The Institute came in at No. 6 on the list, which included such major institutions as Massachusetts General Hospital at No. 5 and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the No. 8 slot. More than 1,000 full-time life scientists working in academic or noncommercial research institutions worldwide participated in the survey, covering topics such as scientific excellence, research resources and job satisfaction.
The “Best Places to Work in Academia” recognition comes on the heels of the La Jolla Institute’s ranking as 7th in the nation for “Best Places to Work for Postdocs,” announced by the The Scientist magazine in April. Postdoctoral fellows, called “Postdocs,” are researchers in training, who typically spend several years working under senior scientists.
“It’s obvious that something very right is going on at the La Jolla Institute,” said John Major, a prominent San Diego business executive who is Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Directors. “These survey results are a reflection of the cutting-edge science and collegial environment that sets the Institute apart from many other research organizations.”
President & Chief Scientific Officer Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., agreed. “I think our collaborative atmosphere and the quality of our science are absolutely central to being regarded as a great place to work,” he said, noting that the Institute is now recognized as one of the top medical research organizations in the world, based on its highly cited immunology research. “As judged by the scientific community, our discoveries on the immune system are among the most innovative in the world.”
Dr. Kronenberg said the dedicated immunology focus has allowed the Institute to attract top researchers in the field, who have made major advances on vaccines, heart disease, cancer and more. Its long list of advances include five discoveries now in pharmaceutical development that offer new approaches for treating asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. “Our researchers are of the caliber that they could be at any preeminent institute in the world,” said Dr. Kronenberg, noting several scientists recently came on board from Harvard Medical School. “I believe our scientists are excited to be here because we are leading the way in the study of the immune system, which is widely regarded as one of the most promising areas for improving human health.”
Hilde Cheroutre, Ph.D., a long-time faculty member, said she feels there is a sense of pride among the scientists and a feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. “I think everyone feels that the Institute is a little bit theirs, they are proud to be there,” she said. “We see the Institute’s reputation growing and each one of us feels that we are contributing to it. We feel part of its success!”
Dr. Cheroutre also noted the Institute’s operational style. “The Institute is a place run by "down to earth" people, and you are always treated like a person,” she said. “They have ‘no nonsense’ rules and problems are not left untouched, or ignored. There is honesty and fairness in how people are treated.”
Amnon Altman, Ph.D., director of scientific affairs and a 22-year faculty member, cited the Institute’s warm, friendly and collaborative atmosphere, the culture of transparency, and the management’s responsiveness to employees' needs and concerns. “We have a long history of openness and respect for our employees,” he said. “It’s part of our Institute’s DNA.”
Dr. Altman said it’s common to see scientists laughing, talking and trading scientific insights in the hallways. “We are all aware of what everyone is working on,” he said. “We share information and we gain from each other’s experiences. You have some of the brightest minds in immunology all in one building. The cross-pollination of ideas is a big part of our research innovation.”
Even the La Jolla Institute’s design bespeaks of its focus on collaboration. Rather than walling off researchers in individual laboratories, the labs are built with an open design that encourages cross-talk and camaraderie. Another plus for the Institute is its size. At 350 employees, the Institute does not endeavor to be as large as many of its scientific peers. Its research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s., who join the Institute from countries around the world. “We’re the right size to capture the advantages of a tight-knit, highly skilled community,” said Dr. Kronenberg. “This includes our high-caliber administrative support staff. Their teamwork and contributions enable our research to proceed.”
The Institute also places a major emphasis on core facilities. Its imaging center, for instance, includes multiphoton microscopy and high resolution (nanometer) live cell imaging capabilities possessed by very few research institutes worldwide, making the Institute a leader in imaging live immune cells. In addition, the Institute launched a dedicated RNA interference (RNAi) Center in 2011, one of the few of its kind in the world. The Center gives La Jolla Institute researchers, and those from neighboring institutions, ready access to the groundbreaking RNAi gene-silencing technology.
Scientist Joel Linden, Ph.D., who arrived from the University of Virginia in 2009, said the Institute has created “a near ideal environment in which to do research."
"The Institute’s infrastructure, administration, faculty and postdocs are all first rate,” he said. “You throw in the excellence of neighboring research institutes, UCSD, hundreds of research-based companies in La Jolla, and the quality of life in Southern California, and you are left with an unsurpassed research venue."
The following is the list of the top 10 “Best Places to Work in Academia” based on the survey by The Scientist. The Scientist is a professional magazine for life scientists that reports on trends in research and technology. Published monthly since 1986, it conducts annual surveys of research workplaces, scientific salaries, and scientific technological innovations.
The top 10:
1. J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco, CA
2. Sage Bionetworks, Seattle, WA
3. Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO
4. Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM), Vienna, Austria
5. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston MA
6. La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, La Jolla, CA
7. Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, WA
8. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN
9. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
10. Blood Systems Research Institute, San Francisco, CA
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn’s disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute’s research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute’s work, visitwww.liai.org