Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics

Prebys Center for Drug Discovery

The Prebys Center is the Institute's comprehensive center for drug discovery and chemical biology.

"Our vision is to be the world’s leading academic drug discovery and development organization, an epicenter for innovative approaches to accelerate the discovery of new drugs to help save lives and treat disease."

Michael Jackson, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Drug Discovery and Development
With our extensive pharmaceutical drug discovery experience, we are well-positioned to drive projects toward an end goal that will ultimately benefit patients. We have projects in all stages of drug discovery, from target validation through IND enabling preclinical development. We are well position to be a partner of choice for academic investigators pursuing translational studies located at the Institute and collaborating Institutes, thereby acting as a bridge to biotechnology and pharmaceutical partners seeking to advance novel therapeutics.
The Prebys Center is fully equipped and staffed to conduct world-class drug discovery research. Experts in assay development, high-throughput screening (HTS), pharmacology and medicinal chemistry work as integrated teams to advance translational projects using industry best practices. The center has achieved national recognition, selected as one of four comprehensive probe/drug discovery centers of the NIH Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN) and one of seven comprehensive centers in the NCI’s Chemical Biology Consortium (CBC).


Our mission is to employ public and private grants, as well as philanthropy and other private gifts, to translate basic research conducted by faculty at Sanford Burnham Prebys and other academic and nonprofit research institutions into new medicines for unmet medical needs, and to partner with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to help bring these new medicines through clinical development and into the market and clinical practice.

A look inside the Prebys Center

Our history and evolution

Beginning in 2009, the Prebys Center has evolved from a chemical biology and probe production center focused on projects from the NIH Molecular Libraries program (MLP) to a fully capable drug discovery enterprise developing New Chemical Entities ready for clinical development. The Center has grown to over 60 employees, who collectively have extensive industry experience and cross-disciplinary expertise in discovering and developing pharmaceuticals.

The Center’s early drug discovery capabilities are substantial, the center piece of the instrumentation is a state of the art robotic platform that enables ultra high-throughput screening of very large chemical collections to identify chemical leads that are starting points for new drugs. This ultra HTS (uHTS) capability was assembled in 2008 to enable the center to operate as a Molecule Libraries Probe Production Center for the NIH. As a comprehensive center in this network, the Prebys Center worked with investigators from over 50 institutes located throughout the USA, successfully completing 132 high throughput screen and generating 67 published chemical probes.

Since 2013, when the MLPCN program ended, the Center has diversified the project portfolio by establishing collaborative alliances with pharmaceutical companies, health care organizations, disease foundations as well as through collaborations that rely on traditional grants and contracts from state and federal organizations to provide resources. These translational collaborations and partnerships represent a fundamental shift for the Prebys Center away from a Core Service operating model to partnering collaborative model in which the center acts as a drug discovery engine, playing a central coordination and project management role, in partnering initiatives to discover novel therapeutics.

Over the past five years the Prebys center has developed an outstanding track record of collaborating with investigators from both within the Institute and elsewhere to attract translational science grants e.g. from NIH with grant awards totaling >$90M. These awards directly fund drug discovery activities (e.g. assay development, HTS screens, medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology) in the center and in the laboratories of collaborators. While such grants are highly competitive, these funds provide Sanford Burnham Prebys and collaborators a unique opportunity to explore high-risk, game changing innovation that when successful, can lead to a leadership position in developing a whole new class of drugs so called “first-in-class” therapeutics.

Core values

Scientific excellence. We conduct the rigorous discovery research needed to address difficult questions and provide objective, informative answers.

Technological development. We continuously develop and adopt the latest cutting edge technologies needed to improve the speed and probability of success of our drug discovery and translation efforts.

Focus on translation into medicines. Aware of the urgent needs of patients for new medicines, we focus on diseases and therapeutic areas where there is a substantial unmet medical need for first in class transformational new medicines.

Stewardship and accountability. We are responsible stewards of the gifted, granted, and partnered resources provided to us, and of the medical and scientific potential inherent in existing and new knowledge uncovered by researchers throughout the world.

Knowledge creation and sharing. We create new knowledge through our research, and through its sharing and publication we enable others to further progress and translate our and their work into new medicines to alleviate patient suffering and save and extend healthy life.

Partnership. We want and need to combine our resources and talents with others to assemble the multidisciplinary teams necessary for successful drug discovery and development to ensure our work ultimately brings value to patients.

Conrad Prebys

The Prebys Center is fortunate to have been the recipient of the generosity of this visionary man. In June 2009, Conrad Prebys made a generous $10 million pledge for the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. This gift provided the seed funding to catalyze the Center’s transformation from a core service provider to a state-of-the-art drug discovery center, whose driving mission is to translate scientific breakthroughs into the medicines of tomorrow.

The Prebys Center honors the responsibility Conrad Prebys entrusted in it and strives every day to make a difference in research and medicine.