Over 45 years of rich history

Working together is at the core of our origins and it continues today.
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Our history

Since its founding on July 7, 1976, as the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, Sanford Burnham Prebys has been an independent research institute where scientists lead the way in developing revolutionary medical discoveries and therapies.

The inspiration came from William Fishman, Ph.D. and his wife and career partner, Lillian. Dr. Fishman left his post as professor, director and founder of the Tufts Cancer Research Center in Boston. Rather than retire, Dr. Fishman wanted to advance his studies in onco-developmental biology, exploiting proteins involved in embryonic development as tumor markers.

With a $180,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Fishmans moved west to San Diego, hired five employees, leased space in a vacant building, and constructed laboratory equipment out of spare parts. It was a modest beginning for what was destined to become an NCI-designated basic research cancer center, a world-class medical research institute, and a world-class medical research institute with an accredited graduate school.

While the Institute’s roots are in cancer research, our focus has expanded over the years to include neuroscience, immunology, stem cell research, drug discovery technologies and rare childhood diseases.

Philanthropy has played a major role in our growth and expansion. Donations from the Whittaker Corporation and the California Foundation enabled us to acquire a five-acre site on the La Jolla mesa. Generous donations from philanthropists and the Institute’s namesakes—T. Denny Sanford, Malin and Roberta Burnham and Conrad Prebys—have helped to ensure the Institute’s path forward.

Sanford Burnham Prebys is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research organization.

The Institute's legacy of discovery

Sanford Burnham Prebys eBook

Development of a California Research Organization: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Sanford Burnham Prebys’ own Eva Engvall, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), Francesca Marassi, Ph.D., Nancy Beddingfield, and Nina Fishman, M.Ed., have written a book highlighting the founding and development of the Institute.

Available for purchase on Amazon. Proceeds from the book sales go to The Fishman Fund.

View on Amazon

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