Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Burnham Institute Awarded $12.7 Million from NIH to Create One of Nation's Top Neuroscience Research Centers

LA JOLLA, Calif. , October 10, 2006

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $12.7 million to the Burnham Institute for Medical Research for a collaborative research program including Salk Institute for Biological Studies (Salk), The Scripps Research Institute (Scripps) and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) that will create one of the nation’s top research facilities in the neurosciences.

The five-year grant will support core technology facilities for researchers studying the nervous system. The program, funded by the NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, will bring together nearly 100 scientists from the four San Diego institutions to study how the nervous system works and possibly develop treatments for nervous system diseases.

Currently, diseases of the nervous system account for six of the top 10 causes of disability in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. About one in three Americans will be affected by a nervous system disease at some point in his or her life.

“I am proud of every scientist who participated in this grant,” said Stuart Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., Burnham professor and director of the Institute’s Del E. Webb Center for Neuroscience and Aging Research. “This honor as one of the nation’s top NIH-designated neuroscience centers should further our efforts to understand how the nervous system functions and design therapies for a wide range of nervous system disorders.”

Specifically, the grant will support neuroscience in 13 core areas, including: stem cells, proteomics, crystallography and nuclear magnetic imaging work, structural biology, functional genomics, genetic analysis, neurobehavior in mice, diseases of nerve cells, electrophysiology studies of nerve impulse transmission, drug screening, and biostatistics and computational modeling.

“Dr. Stuart Lipton has been a leader in catalyzing joint medical research among the neuroscientists at all four institutions in La Jolla,” said Stephen Heinemann, Ph.D., Co-Director on this grant, and Professor in the Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. “The NIH award to create a Neuroscience Research Center validates Dr. Lipton’s vision and will foster excellence in research with long-term benefits to human health.”

“This award provides an exceptional opportunity to further enhance the scientific interactions between major research centers studying neurological and neurodegenerative disorders on the La Jolla Mesa,” said Eliezer Masliah, M.D., Professor of Neurosciences and Pathology at UCSD. “We are excited about participating in this project with our colleagues. The UCSD team will be collaborating on studies of neuronal degeneration in human brains and animal models of Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Prion Disease and other neurological conditions affecting the population.”

With more than 100 scientists involved in the research, projects will address a range of neuroscience issues, including systems neurobiology (the study of the complex linkages of nerves in the brain and peripheral nervous system), developmental neurobiology (examining growth and migration of cells in the developing brain, including stem cells), specific neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as normal degenerative processes associated with aging, and use of stem cells for regenerating nerve cells lost due to disease and trauma.

Leading collaborators working with Drs. Lipton and Heinemann on this grant include: Inder Verma, Ph.D., Professor, Laboratory of Genetics at Salk; Edward M. Callaway, Ph.D., Professor, Systems Neurobiology Laboratories; Eliezer Masliah, M.D., Professor, Neurosciences at UCSD; Amanda J. Roberts, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Molecular and Integrative Sciences at Scripps; and John R Yates, III, Ph.D., Professor, Cell Biology at Scripps. Participating from the Burnham are Adam Godzik, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology; Robert C. Liddington, Ph.D., Professor and Acting Director, Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center; Mark M. Mercola, Ph.D., Professor, Stem Cells and Regeneration Program; Maurizio Pellecchia, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Apoptosis and Cell Death Research, and Infectious Diseases; Barbara Ranscht, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Developmental Neuroscience; and Jeffrey Smith, Ph.D., Director, Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology, and Director, Center on Proteolytic Pathways.

The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research is a collaboration among 14 institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health. The Blueprint was designed to better coordinate efforts in neuroscience research and provide resources to advance research on three areas of nervous system research: development and growth, neurodegeneration from disease and aging, and plasticity, the ability of nerve cells to adapt to changing environments. The Blueprint collaboration allows the NIH to provide significantly more resources toward funding neuroscience research than any NIH institute alone.

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

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