Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Burnham Appoints Michael R. Jackson, Ph.D., Vice President for Drug Discovery & Development

LA JOLLA, Calif. , September 21, 2009

Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) has appointed Michael R. Jackson, Ph.D., to the newly created position of Vice President for Drug Discovery and Development. In this role, Dr. Jackson will oversee the chemical biology and drug discovery efforts of the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (CPCCG) at Burnham’s La Jolla, California and Orlando, Florida campuses. He will lead Burnham’s efforts to identify drug candidates, developing promising chemical compounds into new medicines and creating partnerships for preclinical and clinical drug development.

“Dr. Jackson is a key addition to the Burnham team,” said John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., Burnham President and CEO, professor and Donald Bren Presidential Chair. “With his expertise in drug discovery and development, I am confident that more of Burnham’s promising basic science will be translated into innovative medicines that will benefit people suffering from disease.”

Prior to joining Burnham, Dr. Jackson spent 15 years with Johnson & Johnson holding positions of increasing responsibility, including senior vice president of Drug Discovery (U.S.) at J&J Pharmaceutical Research and Development (J&JPRD) and president of ALZA, a drug delivery company. He established J&JPRD’s state-of-the-art drug discovery research site in La Jolla, where he was most recently Chief Scientific Officer. Under his leadership, J&JPRD delivered numerous drug candidates into preclinical development. More than half of these candidates went on to clinical trials. Dr. Jackson received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Dundee in Scotland and completed his post-doctoral training at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). He was a faculty member at TSRI before joining Johnson & Johnson.

“I am very excited to be part of the Burnham team,” said Dr. Jackson. ”They have built powerful drug discovery capabilities, and I look forward to exploiting those capabilities to move novel therapeutics into the clinic.”

The first step in the drug discovery process involves screening small molecules (chemicals) to determine their potential to produce innovative tools for use in biological research. The CPCCG screens hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds to find the few that could potentially be developed into new medicines. In September 2008, Burnham was awarded a prestigious six-year, $98 million National Institutes of Health grant as part of the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN) to enhance chemical screening and discover chemical compounds that could become new drugs. In January 2009, San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys donated $10 million to support the drug discovery efforts at the center. Recently, Burnham was selected as a comprehensive drug discovery center in the National Cancer Institute’s new chemical biology consortium, a collaborative initiative to generate next generation cancer medicines.

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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