The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, headquartered in La Jolla, CA, dedicated its new Lake Nona campus in Orlando, FL, last fall. The $85 million building, which opened in April 2009, will employ more than 300 people. Florida attracted Sanford-Burnham in 2006 by offering a $350 million incentive package that included land, construction funds, and in-kind services.
The Lake Nona facility is part of a medical park that includes the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Nemours Children’s Hospital, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center-Orlando.
Researchers at Lake Nona will continue to carry out cutting-edge research that will complement areas established at Sanford-Burnham in La Jolla—cancer, infectious and inflammatory disease, aging and stem cells, and neuroscience. In addition, Lake Nona houses a new center for diabetes and obesity research that will cover cardiovascular disease, as well.
Chemical Biology Theme
A strong emphasis on chemical biology underlies all research areas and drives investigations. Chemical biology focuses on identifying small molecules that modulate disease pathways. “That theme weaves itself throughout our research and gets us closer to discoveries that are relevant to small molecule drug discovery,” says John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Sanford-Burnham.
Finding the correct small molecule can advance a program to prototype medicines and clinical trials. Sanford-Burnham is one of only a few academic centers in the U.S. with advanced high-throughput screening (HTS) systems and access to a large chemical libraries approaching one million small molecules.
Sanford-Burnham’s small molecule drug discovery program is embodied within the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (CPCCG), an effort that involves 75 scientists working on both coasts. The development of HTS assays takes place in La Jolla, while Lake Nona specializes in HTS and houses an ultra-HTS robotic screening center.
The CPCCG provides a one-stop shop whose services span a range of biochemical and cell-based screens to find chemical hits and optimize them into biological probes or potential drugs. The equipment includes a first-in-class, highly flexible HighRes Biosolutions 3-POD nonagon ultra-HTS system and two PerkinElmer Janus workstations. “The robot can run more than one million assays in a workday at Lake Nona,” explains Dr. Reed.