News Release

Salk Institute receives $50 million from Hess Corporation to mitigate climate change through plant science

Grant and Award Announcement

Salk Institute

Green planted fields

image: The Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative is an innovative, scalable, and bold approach to fighting climate change by optimizing a plant’s natural ability to capture and store carbon and adapt to diverse climate conditions. view more 

Credit: Paul Orr/

LA JOLLA—(April 3, 2023) Hess Corporation is donating $50 million to the Salk Institute’s Campaign for Discovery: The Power of Science, a seven-year, $750 million comprehensive fundraising campaign to attract the people and build the technology and space necessary to accelerate critical research. This gift will specifically advance Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative—an effort to mitigate climate change by optimizing plants and supporting wetlands to increase capture of excess atmospheric carbon—and provide vital infrastructure for this work by establishing the new Hess Center for Plant Science.

The Hess Corporation gift will be dispersed over five years to support faculty recruitment and laboratory and research operations for the Harnessing Plants Initiative, as well as to create and endow the Hess Center for Plant Science, where Harnessing Plants Initiative scientists will work within the future Joan and Irwin Jacobs Science and Technology Center building.

“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,” says Salk President and Professor Rusty Gage. “Their forward-thinking generosity will pay dividends for future generations to come.”

Harnessing Plants Initiative

Salk’s Harnessing Plants Initiative is led by Professor Joanne Chory, founding director, Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and Professor Wolfgang Busch, executive director and Hess Chair in Plant Science. Other faculty members participating in the initiative include Salk faculty members Joseph NoelJulie LawTodd Michael, and Joseph Ecker. The initiative comprises two projects aimed at mitigating climate change: CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale, in which 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, and Coastal Plant Restoration, in which scientists are identifying and restoring wetland plants that retain carbon, purify water, preserve land, and thrive in challenging environments around the world.

“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 says. “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.”

In 2020, the Salk Institute received a $12.5 million gift from Hess Corporation to accelerate development of plant-based carbon capture and storage. Since then, the Harnessing Plants Initiative team has made numerous advances in enhancing desired plant traits, including deeper rooting and the ability to sequester carbon, and is rapidly scaling their discoveries from laboratory to greenhouse to field trials. In 2021, Hess donated $3 million to establish the endowed Hess Chair in Plant Science at Salk.

“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 enviorment. When these scientists find they need technology that doesn’t yet exist, they often build it themselves,” says 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.”

Hess Center for Plant Science in the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Science and Technology Center

As part of the Campaign for Discovery, Salk plans to build the 100,000-square-foot Jacobs Center on the east side of the Institute’s campus. The facility will provide much-needed research and support space to advance and expand the Institute’s scientific mission, in keeping with founder Jonas Salk’s vision of flexible and functional design.

The Jacobs Center will be home to four Centers of Excellence, including the Hess Center for Plant Science. The new facility will provide the Harnessing Plants Initiative team with more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and the ability to leverage leading-edge technologies in computational biology.

“The Harnessing Plants Initiative is a potential game changer in tackling the global challenge of climate change,” says Hess Corporation Chief Executive Officer 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.”

To learn more about Salk’s Campaign for Discovery, please visit

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Unlocking the secrets of life itself is the driving force behind the Salk Institute. Our team of world-class, award-winning scientists pushes the boundaries of knowledge in areas such as neuroscience, cancer research, aging, immunobiology, plant biology, computational biology and more. Founded by Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, the Institute is an independent, nonprofit research organization and architectural landmark: small by choice, intimate by nature and fearless in the face of any challenge. Learn more at

About Hess Corporation:

Hess Corporation is a leading global independent energy company engaged in the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas. Hess is committed to helping meet the world’s growing energy needs in a safe, environmentally responsible, and socially sensitive way. More information on the company is available at

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