Advisor of the Year presents check to SPARK program

LA JOLLA-On behalf of the San Diego Advisor of the Year Awards program, Paul and Lori Thiel presented a check for $25,000 to the SPARK program at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) in an awards ceremony held on February 26, 2018.

The newly created SPARK program was designed to help young researchers act on promising ideas. Without a proof-of-concept to convince granting agencies to fund a bold research proposal, many daring ideas are never put into action. The SPARK program overcomes the hurdle by providing flexible start-up funding to help young researchers close the gap between their imagination and that first solid set of data that allows them to attract external funding.

Inspired by the enthusiasm and dedication of the young researchers who applied for funding through the SPARK program, Lori and Paul Thiel topped off the proceeds from last year’s Advisor of the Year Award event with a generous contribution to support the work of postdoctoral researcher Holger Winkels, Ph.D., who studies the role of the immune system in atherosclerosis.

From left to right: Trever Acers, Victor Ramshauer, Leo Kjiln, Judy Susser-Travis, John Kraemer, David Crean, Cim Kraemer, Steve LaSala, Lori Thiel, Mitchell Kronenberg, Paul Thiel, Holger Winkels, David Duval, Lamar Rutherford, Channing Hamlet, Clark Jordan, Bill Super

“The reason Paul and I decided to direct these funds toward heart disease research is because we felt it touches on all our lives in one way or another,” said Lori Thiel, an internationally experienced communications strategist, who oversees the administration and strategic planning of the Advisor of the Year.

Arterial plaque build-up, the main driver of heart attacks and strokes, is initiated and perpetuated by immune cells accumulating at sites of vessel tissue damage. Dr. Winkels is particularly interested in understanding how the interactions of immune cells within atherosclerotic plaques may lead to fatal events.

During the course of his work, Dr. Winkels uncovered two previously unknown B cell subtypes as well as non-traditional T cells, which captured his imagination. “I am incredibly grateful for the support and the vote of confidence,” said Winkels. “We know that immune cells play a crucial role in heart disease but there is still a lot we don’t know and the SPARK grants allows me to follow up on some exciting observation.”

“One reason La Jolla Institute has always resonated with us is that in addition to the spectacular work they do, you can actually make a tangible difference here,” said Paul Thiel, a wealth advisor who helped create Advisor of the Year, a not-for-profit organization that hosts an annual awards event to recognize and celebrate local advisors who provide extraordinary service to owners of middle market companies.

“By supporting Holger’s work we hope to not only drive heart disease research forward but also direct attention to something of substance in an era when civic engagement is often overlooked,” added Paul Thiel, who also co-chairs La Jolla Institute’s Planned Giving Advisory Council.

About La Jolla Institute for Immunology

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology is dedicated to understanding the intricacies and power of the immune system so that we may apply that knowledge to promote human health and prevent a wide range of diseases. Since its founding in 1988 as an independent, nonprofit research organization, the Institute has made numerous advances leading toward its goal: life without disease.