A Vote of Confidence

By Josh Baxt
March 24, 2010

On January 26, the excitement at Burnham was everywhere. In La Jolla, television news trucks were double-parked; an intricate stage was set up in the Fishman Auditorium and overflow seating was arranged so that everyone could participate in the upcoming announcement.At Lake Nona, a video feed was bringing the news cross-country. Throughout the Institute, people were eager to learn what all these preparations meant. They did not have to wait long.

At a little after 10 a.m., surrounded by scientists, community leaders, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Burnham co-founder Lillian Fishman, Malin Burnham and many others, Senior Vice President of External Relations Blair Blum announced that South Dakota philanthropist T. Denny Sanford was making a $50 million gift to rapidly expand biomedical research at Burnham.

Sanford’s gift will expand the Institute’s intellectual resources by supporting the recruitment and retention of bright and creative scientists. In addition, the gift will help the Institute carry out important research and speed the search for new treatments. The gift will also strengthen the Institute’s endowment.

“Your show of confidence in our team and this organization, with a landmark $50 million gift, atop the $20 million that you previously directed to build children’s research programs at Burnham, is nothing short of amazing,” said John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., President and CEO, professor and Donald Bren Presidential Chair. “Your investment in this institution will catalyze innovative medical research for decades to come, giving rise to breakthrough discoveries and helping to translate those great discoveries into real progress for improving human health worldwide.”

Honored Guests

Cameras ringed Fishman Auditorium while staff prepared for the announcement.

Cameras ringed Fishman Auditorium while staff prepared for the announcement.

As the event continued, Mayor Sanders and Governor Schwarzenegger noted how Denny Sanford’s gifts to Burnham and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine are having a remarkable impact on science, as well as the economy, in San Diego and beyond.

“Over the past two years, Mr. Sanford has established an impressive legacy of philanthropy on Torrey Pines Mesa, helping our life sciences community stay in the forefront of medical research,” said Mayor Sanders. “He gave a $20 million gift to create the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center at Burnham. He gave a $30 million gift to build the research facility for the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. And today, $50 million to accelerate the scientific research here at Burnham. That’s $100 million of support for new jobs and research infrastructure and many more opportunities for scientific research that will have an impact on world health.”

Malin Burnham and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Malin Burnham and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Governor Schwarzenegger echoed Mayor Sanders’ sentiments and applauded Sanford for his contributions to improving health.

“Today is a terrific example of the kind of public/private partnerships that are so important,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “I know that everyone here will agree that this research is extremely important because it will ease the suffering for cancer patients, diabetes patients, Alzheimer’s patients and the list goes on and on.

“But also, California biotech firms employ more than 280,000 workers in high-paying jobs. Over the last year, in spite of the recession, we gained 2,000 jobs in biotechnology. Denny’s donation will create hundreds of additional jobs.”


Throughout the festivities, it was clear that no one was having a better time than Malin Burnham and Denny Sanford. In the two plus years since they met, Burnham and Sanford have developed a bond of friendship and mutual respect.

Denny Sanford and Malin Burnham show off the new sign.

Denny Sanford and Malin Burnham show off the new sign.

“Denny has been telling people that he and I are brothers, and he even calls me ‘bro’ from time to time,” said Burnham. “So yes, we are brothers, and we are partners. When Denny and I first started talking about what more he could do here at the Burnham Institute, I really didn’t know exactly where it might go, but I knew that he had the vision to see what it could do.”

With that, Burnham called Denny Sanford up on stage to join him. Together, they announced that the Institute had been renamed Sanford- Burnham Medical Research Institute, unveiled the new logo and premiered the Sanford-Burnham video.

“I am truly honored to have my name associated and right next to this guy right here,” said Denny Sanford, putting a hand on Burnham’s shoulder. “This is an outstanding organization that has at its core the development of the very best research, the hiring of the very best people and the success that can come from this.”

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Josh Baxt

Josh was an SBP Communications staff member.



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