Friday, April 28, 2006

Irwin M. Jacobs chosen Salk chairman-elect

Irwin M. Jacobs, co-founder of wireless giant and San Diego legend Qualcomm Inc., was named today as chairman-elect of the Salk Institute's Board of Trustees. He will take the title in November.

The vote was unanimous, according to a Salk press release announcing the appointment. It was not exactly a surprise; as Jacobs was elected vice chair in March. The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of San Diego's major biomedical research centers. It was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, who led the team that developed the first effective polio vaccine. That killed-virus vaccine is still in use.

Jacobs, who led Qualcomm to global prominence with its CDMA cell phone technology, has taken on a higher role in the biological sciences in recent years. He and his wife, Joan, first became involved with the Salk Institute in 2004 when they helped establish the Crick-Jacobs Center for Computational and Theoretical Biology. This center uses computation-based modeling methods to understand how the brain processes information. (Crick, of course, is the late Francis Crick, a co-discoverer of the function of DNA, and a longtime Salk faculty member).

The Jacobses are major patrons of the arts. They have donated to the San Diego Symphony, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Irwin Jacobs recently retired as CEO of Qualcomm in favor of his son Paul. Qualcomm is the most highly valued company in San Diego, with a market capitalization currently over $80 billion.

I remember that not too long ago Qualcomm was more famous for its Eudora email software than for CDMA. It was a joke among Qualcommers when guests would stop by and comment on their surprise that all these engineers would be working on Eudora.

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