Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute announced at a news conference Wednesday it received a $100 million donation from local philanthropist, Conrad Prebys.
In honor of the gift — Prebys’ largest ever — the institute will change its name to the the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.
The institute plans to use the donation for its 10-year plan to bring innovative treatments to improve human health.
“This is a tremendous donation and gift to the institute,” Sanford-Burnham’s CEO Perry Nisen said. “We’ll use that resource to pursuit translational and basic research that we have been undertaking, focusing on oncology, metabolism, autoimmunity and neural degeneration.”
In the age where federal funding for medical research is harder and harder to come by, donations from private individuals such as Prebys is essentially underpinning the ability for the institute to perform these kinds of research, Nisen said.
“Especially the high-risk research in the early phases and these areas where not everybody is already going … because it’s so risky,” he said. “If not for that, gifts like this, how would we be able to pursue that research and create the new medicine that is needed by patients?”
Some of the money from the donation will be used to upgrade the facility in La Jolla to allow scientists to better collaborate with one another, Nisen said. The institute also has a campus in Orlando, Fla.
For Prebys, though, the donation is a bit more existential.
“The idea that you can reduce the suffering and extend a useful life is pretty heavy stuff and I want to be a part of that,” he said. And he thinks the science community is on the cusp of a major breakthrough.
“Great things are going to be happening. Great things! Things that we aren’t even aware of,” he said.
Saumya Nagar, a neural science graduate student at the institute agreed that scientists are on the verge of a breakthrough.
“There is a dearth for therapies for neural degenerative diseases and since humans are living longer, there more diseases coming up which affects the older people,” she said. “And so this is the right time to find new therapies.”
And while the funding will help find new technology and therapies for degenerative diseases, Nagar thinks Prebys’ gift will also inspire a new crop of scientists.
“Being a student, I think it’s going to really fuel the new generation of scientists coming in,” she said.
Prebys previously donated $11 million to the institute.
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