2015 SBP Gala celebrates a year of “Creative Intervention Unleashed”

| Written by ccallen
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“Creative Intervention Unleashed,” the 2015 Gala of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP), was a joyous salute to the scientists who are moving toward cures and the donors who are with them every step of the way.

More than 200 supporters gathered at the Grand Del Mar on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 to celebrate a pivotal year for the Institute. The festivities were led by honorary gala co-chairs Susan and Jim Blair, Phyllis and Dan Epstein, and Robin and Hank Nordhoff, and the guests were surrounded by vibrant images of fluorescent cells and molecular structures.

The setting was sumptuous, and the mood was euphoric. But the evening’s dominant emotions were passion for SBP’s translational research achievements and excitement about the Institute’s future impact.

Hank Nordhoff, who spoke on behalf of the honorary chairs, told the audience that the Institute “wouldn’t have a chance of fulfilling its mission without your support.” Noting that he, Jim, and Dan all serve on the Institute’s Board of Trustees, Nordhoff said, “We invest in SBP because of the quality and the productivity of the research and the ability to turn that superb research into safe and effective breakthrough products to treat patients.”

Nordhoff was followed to the podium by Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., who was just starting his second year as Institute CEO and Donald Bren Chief Executive Chair. Nisen gave the audience an overview of what he described as “an amazing year” topped by a landmark $100 million gift from honorary trustee Conrad Prebys. “All I can say,” Nisen told Prebys, “is that we’re going to make you proud!” Other 2014-2015 highlights were accreditation of the SBP Graduate School, licensing of a drug candidate for renal cardiovascular disease (“the first of many to come”), and a new five-year partnership with Eli Lilly to develop immunological drugs.

“Most importantly, the science has been incredible this past year,” Nisen reported, “and that speaks to the vital impact of the contributions you make. The success of this Institute has been phenomenal because of your support, and I hope all of you will stay on this train with us.”

Nisen then introduced a special Gala video that gave the back story of a new collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The alliance came out of a discovery by Carl Ware, Ph.D., of a molecular target that may help block inflammation in autoimmune diseases. The video showed how families struggle to cope with pediatric Crohn’s disease and how Ware is determined to relieve their plight and raise their hopes.

“Autoimmune disease afflicts people of all ages, but it’s perhaps most intense in young kids,” said Ware, who is professor and director of SBP’s Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center. “We’re developing a clinical trial to help these patients, and we hope to start in early 2016.”

The evening culminated with the Gala’s annual “Fund-a-Need” tradition when guests raise their bidding paddles to pledge specified amounts for Institute support. With leadership bids from Nancy and Matt Browar, Geniya and Papa Doug Manchester, Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys, Jeanne and Gary Herberger, and Denny Sanford the event raised a total of $1.1 million.

All in all, the 2015 SBP Gala was, in the words of CEO Nisen, “a brilliant, clever, elegant evening.”

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