Newswise — La Jolla, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., August 19, 2014 ⎯ Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) today announced that its Board of Trustees has appointed Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., as Chief Executive Officer and holder of the Donald Bren Chief Executive Chair. In this role, he will lead the Institute and oversee the execution of its new 10-year strategic vision to more quickly translate basic research discoveries into novel treatments that improve human health. Dr. Nisen joins Sanford-Burnham from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – a British multinational pharmaceutical company – where he was senior vice president of Science and Innovation.

“Dr. Nisen is an experienced biomedical researcher and proven leader in therapeutics development in the pharma industry, making him a great fit to lead the Institute at this pivotal point in time,” said Gregory Lucier, chairman of Sanford-Burnham’s Board of Trustees. “Under Dr. Nisen’s leadership, Sanford-Burnham will expand its efforts to cross the traditional boundary between academic research and commercialization.”

As CEO, Dr. Nisen will spearhead the Institute’s strategic vision that was announced in January 2014, including implementing a research model that encourages innovation by aligning basic biomedical research, translational research, and drug discovery and development. He will also oversee business development and fundraising initiatives.

“Sanford-Burnham’s agile structure, no-barriers science, and partnership approach are key drivers of innovation and are extremely attractive to me. I am excited to join a team of talented scientists who are committed to high-yield research,” said Dr. Nisen.

An experienced leader for a changing research worldIn response to the evolving therapeutics development ecosystem, Sanford-Burnham is already advancing its efforts beyond basic research toward early clinical validation. Sanford-Burnham is well positioned to capitalize on the outsourcing and downsizing of early-stage discovery within the pharmaceutical industry, based on the Institute’s 38-year history in world-class basic biomedical research, in-house industry expertise, and an advanced chemical-screening platform.

These market opportunities arise at the same time as funding for biomedical research is contracting. However, despite declining National Institutes of Health (NIH) research budgets, Sanford-Burnham has built a strong financial base. In January 2014, Sanford-Burnham received a $275-million pledge payable over 10 years from an anonymous donor in support of its new strategic vision. This vision includes priorities that will be led by Dr. Nisen to diversify revenue through expanded clinical and commercial partnerships and a more robust therapeutics-discovery engine.

Breakthrough discoveries to improve human healthThe position of CEO had been held on an interim basis by Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., who is president of Sanford-Burnham, professor in its National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center, and Pauline and Stanley Foster Presidential Chair. She will continue to lead the scientific, academic, and general operations of the Institute. “Given Dr. Nisen’s extensive experience in target-to-market development of medicines, he is exceptionally well suited to lead the Institute and the implementation of our strategic vision,” said Dr. Vuori. “I look forward to working closely with him as we accelerate the translation of basic research discoveries into innovative therapeutics that have a tangible impact on people’s lives.”

Over the next years, Sanford-Burnham will expand its efforts to translate laboratory discoveries into novel diagnostics and treatments, and leverage promising emerging areas that cut across disease states, such as metabolism, epigenetics, and immunomodulation. By working with health-care partners to enhance the clinical relevance of their research, Institute scientists will validate disease targets and pathways, utilizing advanced technologies such as genomics, bioinformatics, and other “omics.”

“Sanford-Burnham has a legacy, culture, and environment that enable the unfettered conduct of some of the world’s most high-impact, cutting-edge research. I’m passionately committed to translating that science into meaningful clinical results,” said Dr. Nisen.

About Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D.Before joining Sanford-Burnham, Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., was senior vice president of Science and Innovation at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in King of Prussia, Pa. In this role, he provided scientific and medical leadership, counsel, and governance to GSK’s global organization. Dr. Nisen holds a B.S. from Stanford University and an M.D. and Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. Formerly, he was the Lowe Foundation Professor of Neuro-Oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research InstituteSanford-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, its NIH-designated Neuroscience Center Cores, 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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