Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Burnham Awarded $97.9 Million NIH Grant to Expand Small-Molecule Screening and Discovery Center

LA JOLLA, Calif. , September 2, 2008

Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) announced today that it has been awarded a prestigious six-year, $97.9 million Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Burnham will equip and manage one of four comprehensive small-molecule screening and discovery centers in the nation. Burnham was selected from among some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious universities and medical research institutions.

“We are excited to be awarded a grant of this magnitude from the NIH,” said John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., Burnham President and CEO, Professor and Donald Bren Presidential Chair. “Our La Jolla Campus in San Diego, California, along with our new operation to be located at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida, will comprise a bicoastal small-molecule-based chemical genomics and drug discovery center that will be one of the most advanced in the non-profit world.”

For the past three years, Burnham has participated in the pilot phase of the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network initiative. During that trial period, Burnham was among the top-performing centers in the nation, helping to set the stage for the NIH grant that will move the Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics (BCCG) into production phase as an MLPCN Comprehensive Screening Center.

MLPCN centers are created to enhance chemical screening to discover the chemical compounds that could become the next generation of medicines. With large collections of chemicals (called chemical libraries) and robotic systems for high-throughput screening, scientists can increase the pace of discovery.

“We will have the capabilities more commonly found in large pharmaceutical companies when it comes to taking the fruits of great basic research and translating them into compounds that could become the prototype medicines of tomorrow,” said Dr. Reed.

Burnham’s new facility at Lake Nona (Orlando) Florida, set to open in Spring 2009, will greatly expand BCCG capabilities with a pharmacology core facility and an ultra-high throughput screening system capable of screening more than 2 million chemical compounds per day. The new facility was made possible with a $350 million incentive package from the state of Florida, along with support from Orange County, the city of Orlando and the Tavistock Group.

The Burnham Center for Chemical Genomics brings diverse approaches to drug discovery. In addition to ultra-high throughput screening capabilities, the center specializes in rapid screening with high-throughput microscopy and other sophisticated approaches. The BCCG has also expanded its capabilities in medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and has the ability to rapidly synthesize chemical compounds, using microfluidics technology, in a fraction of the time and cost of conventional methods.

In addition to supporting the screening center, the grant will also fund research into sophisticated methods to grow and test tumor cells and stem cells, which will be used to identify chemicals that alter their behaviors.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

Sanford-Burnham can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter @sanfordburnham.

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