Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics

Prebys Center for Drug Discovery

The Prebys Center has a track record of being a stellar partner of choice for academic, foundation and pharmaceutical partners

On average, we manage from 5 to 10 large collaborative agreements and numerous agreements, as well as working with individual investigators on specific projects, all of which are aimed at discovering and developing first in class novel small molecule and biologic therapeutics.

The current portfolio of projects includes targets for diseases such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease, cancer and metabolic disorders.


Why the Prebys Center?

We are able to organize cross-disciplinary teams of scientists toward a common goal, combining experience with innovative approaches and outstanding technical capabilities. We have particular expertise in prosecuting projects that require technically difficult assays to identify initial chemical matter, such as use of iPSC disease models in the drug discovery cascade and use of high content imaging assays to identify novel mechanism of action hits to inform druggable targets in a pathway.

Project management in partnering

The Prebys Center project managers play an important role in our collaborations, both those that involve Pharma/Biotech or academic drug discovery institutions and disease foundations. We work closely with the internal and external project team members and collaborators to devise project plans outlining the path to achievement of deliverables. Our team is comprised of project management trained professionals who have also had previous experiences in industry as drug discovery scientists and project leaders. We will be the interface between your project manager and the Prebys Center to ensure clarity on objectives, critical path activities and interdependencies of a project plan. The expertise of the team covers a range of therapeutic areas (including oncology, CNS, cardiovascular and metabolic disease) across the drug discovery stages and collectively we are experienced in assay development and high throughput screening, small molecule and large molecule medicinal chemistry through hit-to-lead and lead optimization, pre-clinical development.

Alliance management

The Prebys Center is committed to being a ‘partner of choice’ for both Pharma/Biotech and academic drug discovery institutions. The project managers at the Prebys Center are part of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Alliance Management Community and work closely with our Strategic Alliance colleagues to ensure that collaboration frameworks are outlined and partner needs are addressed and met.


Our partnerships

Disease foundation partners


In November 2014, a $1 million gift from Karen and Stuart Tanz established the Tanz Initiative, an international collaboration between Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto. The two life science powerhouses share a mission to accelerate new treatments to patients with neurodegenerative diseases. They bring complementary strengths to their new joint venture: the cutting-edge resources of the Institute’s drug discovery/optimization capabilities and the Tanz Centre’s expertise in neurobiology, preclinical testing of prototype therapeutics, and diagnostics for at-risk individuals.

The Tanz Initiative began by identifying three molecular targets, which play a role in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. A fourth project is focused on modeling neurodegenerative diseases in a dish using human patient cells. This platform technology will be used across all the drug discovery projects to accelerate validation of the targets. To date, impressive progress has been made on these projects.


Pedal the Cause

Pedal the Cause, the only multi-day cycling fundraiser to support cancer research in San Diego, provides critical funding to the community’s National Cancer Institute-Designated cancer centers. As home to three NCI-designated cancer centers, San Diego has long been a powerhouse for cancer research, prevention, and treatment. Three singular institutions, Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, form the novel collaboration known as the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council, or C3, and work together to leverage their distinct and combined resources to accelerate innovative approaches for the treatment and prevention of cancer. The Prebys Center has received multiple Pedal the Cause-funded awards to apply its drug discovery expertise in collaboration with basic research scientists.


Research in the rare Nieman-Pick Type C Disease

Niemann-Pick disease (NPD) is a neurodegenerative disorder similar to Alzheimer’s; however NPD mainly afflicts children. Similar to most other rare diseases, NPD has fewer devoted researchers compared to more common diseases, like cancer and heart disease. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Bang, Dr. Emily Pugach uses disease-specific models, often referred to as “disease-in-a-dish”, to find a new drug or chemical that makes the NPD patient cells look and behave more like cells from a healthy person. Her work is funded through Dana’s Angels Research Trust SOAR award.


Governmental and academic partners


Since 2013, the Mayo Clinic and Sanford Burnham Prebys’ Prebys Center have collaborated under a strategic agreement, which leverages Mayo’s world-class clinical innovation and medical research and the Institute's world-class laboratory research and drug discovery expertise. Our partnership is patient-focused; its mission is to deliver effective and safe drugs to the people who need them.


National Cooperative Reprogrammed Cell Research Groups to Study Mental Illness: U19

Sanford Burnham Prebys, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the University of Michigan will embark on a $15.4 million effort to develop new systems for quickly screening libraries of drugs for potential effectiveness against schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has announced. The Prebys Center plays a critical role in the consortium. Under the direction of Anne Bang, Ph.D. it will develop assays and test prototype drug compounds to see if they induce the desired response in iPSC disease models from the consortium.


CBC and the NCI

Since 2010, Sanford Burnham Prebys has participated as an active member of the National Cancer Institute’s Chemical Biology Consortium (CBC), within the Experimental Therapeutics (NExT) Program. The Prebys center was reselected in 2015, to act as a Dedicated Center to support the advancement of NExT discovery projects through all discovery stages and provide scientific expertise to the Consortium.



From 2008 – 2014, the Prebys Center was one of four national comprehensive centers in the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN), which was designed to facilitate drug development by providing early stage small molecule leads or chemical probes. Researchers used these chemical probes to validate new drug targets with the potential to move the project into drug development pipelines. MLPCN focused in areas, which may not be attractive for private sector development, such as rare diseases. During its time as a comprehensive center, the Prebys Center collaborated with hundreds of researchers in the US and worldwide on developing assays, performing high throughput high content screening, and medicinal chemistry for target validation and lead optimization studies on over 130 projects.


Pharma and biotech partners


In 2014 Sanford Burnham Prebys and Daiichi Sankyo Inc. (DSI) formed a thematic alliance to develop lead compounds against novel drug targets for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The collaboration leverages the expertise of PIs at SBP as well as the Prebys Center drug discovery capabilities. This winning combination has resulted in the identification of drug candidate, DS-1211, which targets tissue non-specific alkaline phosphatase (TNAP) and is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials. This was a significant milestone for the Institute being the first Prebys center discovered and developed compound that has come from the foundational research at the Institute to enter clinical development in humans. DS-1211 was designated Orphan Drug Status by the FDA in 2020.  The collaboration continues with a strong portfolio of projects positioned to repeat the success of the TNAP, including a lead co-developed under the alliance that was license by DSI  in FY20 , which is currently in preclinical development for the treatment of pain and other CNS indications.