Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Announces New Government Relations and External Relations Appointments

ORLANDO, Fla. , January 6, 2011

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) has appointed Elizabeth Gianini to the position of Vice President, Government Relations.  Ms. Gianini will be responsible for the Institute’s outreach to state and federal policymakers.  She was previously Vice President, External Relations.  Elizabeth Birlet will assume the position of Vice President, External Relations. Ms. Birlet will lead the Institute’s East Coast philanthropic fundraising operation.

Ms. Birlet has held senior philanthropic and development positions over the past 20 years at academic research institutions across the nation, including the University of California, San Diego, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Most recently, she was Director of Investor Philanthropy for the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.  She has a master’s degree in journalism with a focus on biomedical science from the University of Illinois.

“Liz’s extensive knowledge in the field of foundation relations and major life science gifts will help cultivate the philanthropic support that is critical to fund non-profit biomedical research,” said Blair Blum, Senior Vice President of External Relations at Sanford-Burnham.  “Ms. Birlet joined the Institute in early December with responsibility for building a robust development strategy designed to cultivate and secure major gifts on the East Coast of the United States.”

Ms. Gianini will build upon her years of experience in state and national politics, and her leadership in public service to establish a department of Government Relations.  Ms. Gianini’s previous experience includes having served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant U.S. Trade Representative in the Office of the U.S. Trade Ambassador in Washington; Director of Public Affairs, Foley and Lardner, Washington, D.C.; and Chief of Staff to Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty.  Ms. Gianini will work with government decision-makers on policies that affect the Institute. She will also focus on identifying state and national grant opportunities.

“When we decided to embark on this new initiative, it was relatively easy to fill this role given Elizabeth’s successful track record in government relations and her understanding of the Institute. She was ready to hit the ground running.” said Dr. John Reed, CEO of Sanford-Burnham.  “As competition intensifies for traditional NIH grants, access to a broad array of funding sources is essential for continued investigation of promising research projects that would not otherwise receive funding.”

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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