Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

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Coordinates: 32°54′04″N 117°14′31″W / 32.901192°N 117.241937°W / 32.901192; -117.241937

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute Logo.png
The official logo of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
PresidentKristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
CEOKristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D.
Budget$123 million (2018)
Address10901 North Torrey Pines Road

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is a non-profit medical research institute located in La Jolla, California. There are more than 500 scientists at SBP blending fundamental research with drug discovery to address unmet clinical needs in the areas of cancer, neuroscience, immunity, and childhood diseases.

Research at SBP is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation among others, and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development.[1] In 2008, SBP was awarded a $97.9 million grant by NIH to establish a high-throughput screening center.[2]


Former Burnham Institute for Medical Research logo

William H. Fishman, M.D., Ph.D., and his wife, Lillian Waterman Fishman, founded the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation in 1976 after retiring from Tufts University School of Medicine. The Foundation focused on oncodevelopment, the study of developmental biology in conjunction with oncology as a means to better understand cancer.

In 1996, the Foundation was renamed The Burnham Institute in honor of San Diego businessman Malin Burnham after he joined with an anonymous donor to contribute $10 million. The Institute was renamed the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in 2006. In 2007, T. Denny Sanford gave the Institute $20 million through Sanford Health, a hospital which received significant donations from T. Denny Sanford previously, allowing it to create the Sanford Children's Health Research Center, which has sites in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and La Jolla, CA, the latter within the campus of SBP. In 2010, the Institute adopted the name Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute following a $50 million pledge of support from Sanford.[3] An anonymous gift of $275 million was made in 2014. In 2015, the Institute changed its name again to Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute following a $100 million gift from philanthropist Conrad Prebys.[4]


SBP was founded with its primary focus on cancer research. The institute employs more than 700 people. The scientists who work at SBP include biologists, chemists, biophysicists, engineers, and computer scientists. SBP ranks consistently among the world's top 25 organizations for its research impact, according to Thomson Scientific data. It also ranks among the top three research institutes in the United States in National Institutes of Health grant funding.

The institute now conducts a broad array of medical research activities and is home to four research centers:

Stem cell research[edit]

SBP is one of four institutes that have joined together to carry out stem cell research in a partnership renamed for T. Denny Sanford after he donated $30 million to the effort in 2008. The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in December 2009 broke ground on a $126 million research facility following more than a year of financing delays wrought by California's budget problems.

Select scientific achievements[edit]

  • 1971: Eva Engvall, one of the scientists who invented ELISA in 1971, worked at SBP. She continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor.
  • 1984: Discovered cell adhesion regulator RGD (Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • 1988: Collaborative discovery of the role TGF beta plays in tissue scarring. Based on this research, two clinical trials are underway: one for the treatment of pulmonary fibrosis and another for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma and melanoma (Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • 1992: Observed that the activity of common anti-cancer drugs requires “cell suicide” of the cancer cells (apoptosis) and subsequently discovered novel proteins important in apoptosis (John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • 1997: Discovered peptides that home to specific organs. These peptides were later used as targeting elements to deliver nanoparticles into tumors and other sites of disease (Erkki Ruoshlahti, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • 2001: Solved the 3-dimensional structure of the anthrax toxin, leading to the creation of the world’s most potent chemical inhibitor of anthrax (Robert Liddington, Ph.D.)
  • 2009: Solved the crystal structure of the influenza hemagglutinin (H5) in complex with a broad spectrum neutralizing antibody (Robert Liddington, Ph.D.)

Collaboration and partnerships[edit]

A robotic arm used in high-throughput screening in operation at the La Jolla campus.

SBP scientists routinely collaborate across disciplines. In addition, SBP has strong working relationships with a number of other organizations, including the University of California, San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the Mayo Clinic.

SBP also collaborates with pharmaceutical companies to move research breakthroughs from the lab out to the public. Recent agreements include partners such as Lilly, Daiichi-Sankyo, and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Training and education[edit]

Established in 2006, SBP's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences offers a Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Sciences. The Graduate School trains students for careers in basic and translational research through a curriculum of focused, multi-disciplinary instruction. In 2015, SBP achieved accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. SBP also employs postdoctoral fellows; there are typically around 125 postdocs training at SBP at any time.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Burnham, Johnson & Johnson ink partnership". January 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Burnham Awarded $97.9 Million NIH Grant to Expand Small-Molecule Screening and Discovery Center".
  3. ^ Burnham Institute Gets $50M Gifta and Changes Name, GenomeWeb, January 26, 2010
  4. ^ Bell, Diane (June 24, 2015). "Conrad Prebys finds joy in living, giving". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 31 July 2016.

External links[edit]