Alessandra Sacco named new dean of Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Sanford Burnham Prebys

Alessandra Sacco, Ph.D.

Sanford Burnham Prebys has named Alessandra Sacco, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, effective July 1, 2023. She succeeds Guy Salvesen, Ph.D., the founding dean of the school, who will remain an active member of the faculty. 

“Dr. Sacco’s five-year appointment as dean is part of a long-planned succession,” says David A. Brenner, M.D., president and CEO of Sanford Burnham Prebys. “She is ideally suited to be the new dean, with a long and fruitful history of active research and an intense passion for educating and encouraging new scientists. She is a leader and a mentor.”

Sacco, who was recruited to Sanford Burnham Prebys in 2010 and was previously vice dean and associate dean of student affairs for the graduate school, studies skeletal muscle wasting, a devastating characteristic of many diseases including muscular degenerative diseases, cancer and aging. She is also co-director of the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program and a member of the Cancer Genome and Epigenetics Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys’ National Cancer Institute–designated Cancer Center

“I am deeply honored and delighted to serve as dean for our graduate program,” says Sacco. “I would like to sincerely thank Dr. Salvesen, who developed the graduate program and made it the great success it is today. I have learned a lot from working alongside him in the past few years, and we will continue to build upon his vision. I look forward to the journey ahead and to inspiring the next generation of scientists.”

Salvesen, who came to Sanford Burnham Prebys in 1996, specializes in studying the life expectancies of different cell types and, specifically, how certain enzyme pathways influence cellular life and death. The research has applications to better understanding underlying pathologies, including how to perhaps stimulate cell destruction in malignant cells or delay it in neurodegenerative diseases and stroke. He is also a professor in the Cancer Metabolism and Microenvironment Program

“The school opened in 2005 with the mission and mandate to educate the next generation of outstanding biomedical scientists, and to drive future cutting-edge basic and translational research using the latest technologies and the newest approaches and thinking,” says Salvesen.

“We want to attract the finest young minds in biomedical science and mentor them to develop and advance their individual talents and passions, which ultimately benefits all of us through new discoveries, treatments and perhaps cures for some of the most difficult diseases and public health challenges of our time.”

The graduate school, with nearly 40 faculty members, provides highly personalized curricula with one-to-one tutorials, courses, support in research training, scientific communication, career advising, leadership development and immigration support. It is accredited by the WASC Senior College & University Commission. 

Since 2005, the school has graduated 62 students. The current class includes 40 students from diverse universities and backgrounds around the world.

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