Xconomist of the Week: John Reed on Sanford-Burnham’s Drug Pipeline

8/3/12Follow @bvbigelow

In the decade since John Reed stepped in as chief executive, San Diego’s Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has basically doubled in size. The nonprofit research facility has added a campus in Orlando, FL, the full-time faculty has grown from 52 to 89, and the overall staff has increased from 520 to 1,200.

Today the institute has five specialized research centers. When Reed took over in January, 2002, there were just two—a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and a center focused on aging and neuroscience research. Reed was instrumental in adding a stem cell research program to the neuroscience center (headed by Evan Snyder), and he oversaw the formation of Sanford-Burnham centers for infectious and inflammatory disease, children’s health, and, most recently, a diabetes and obesity center in Orlando.

Perhaps more importantly for the life sciences industry, Reed led development of a 10-year plan that extended work at the institute beyond basic research, with a major program focused on identifying and advancing promising drug candidates. The effort has helped to fill a much-bewailed shortfall in the pipeline of new drug candidates inside Big Pharma companies.

When I recently sat down with Reed, he told me Sanford-Burnham now generates between two and four small molecule drugs a year that are considered valid clinical candidates—along with one to two protein drug candidates that are ready for final animal studies that make it possible to start human clinical trials.

In addition to serving as the institute’s chief executive, Reed continues to do research focused on apoptosis (programmed cell death) and other fundamental mechanisms that regulate the lifespan of the cell. He oversees a lab with about 40 people, and told me he writes about 25 applications a year for grants from the National Institutes of Health. He has published more than 800 scientific papers, and was named earlier this … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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