We’d like to thank and recognize the incredible support and generosity of LJI Board Director Tom Tullie and his wife Judy, as well as Dave and Brenda Rickey and their families. With their joint commitment to the SPARK program made in 2019, we now have the assurance that this program will have funding for at least four awards per year for the next 10 years. Their impact on the early-career researchers at La Jolla Institute will be profound, as will the knowledge we gain from the projects that are seeded by the SPARK awards. We have honored their commitment by renaming the SPARK program The Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Awards for Innovations in Immunology.
Tullie says he and his wife, Judy, are thrilled to support a program they believe will lead to groundbreaking science. “I’ve been an entrepreneur and involved in innovation my entire career, but this is the most exciting program I’ve seen because the ideas these young scientists have are not only fascinating, they have the potential to generate breakthrough discoveries that will someday save lives,” says Tullie, who also serves on the Institute’s board.
For the Rickeys, involvement in the SPARK program was spurred by the couple’s belief in the Institute’s mission itself. “Brenda and I love the idea of ‘life without disease’ because so many of our friends and family have suffered or died from cancer, heart problems, dementia, and other ailments,” Rickey says. “A lot of non-profits don’t have clear goals, but the Institute’s mission is concise while being extremely bold and ambitious. It may not be fully realized in our lifetime, but we believe with the amazing talent of their scientists, the Institute’s mission is achievable.”
Both Tullie and Rickey have already helped attract other donors to join forces with them on SPARK, but they don’t want to stop there. “A lot of other young scientists have proposed really worthy projects that are potential home runs, but we just couldn’t fund them all,” Tullie says. “We are hoping others will join us and provide additional seed funding to advance some more of these promising ideas.” He adds, “Instead of just being able to award the four grants a year help us go for 10, let’s go to 15. I guarantee you it will be well worth all of our investments because these ideas are unbelievable and they need to get funded.”