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Burnham Institute Gets $50M Gift, Changes Name

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Burnham Institute for Medical Research is changing its name following a $50 million pledge of support from T. Denny Sanford — the second eight-figure gift to the institute from the Sioux Falls, SD, philanthropist in the past three years.

"With this gift, I have challenged others to join me in supporting this life-changing science," Sanford said in a statement.

The rechristened Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute will receive $10 million over each of the next five years. The institute said in the statement that the donation will "significantly strengthen" its endowment, which stood at $22.5 million as of Dec. 31.

That's an improvement from the end of the institute's last fiscal year June 30, 2009, when the endowment was recorded at as low as $15.2 million — a 13 percent drop from nearly $17.5 million in FY 2008, due largely to losses on investments. Over the past two years, Burnham's budget has risen to $154 million in the current fiscal year from $106 million in FY 2008.

"This gift provides a base that enhances our ability to innovate, allowing us to create and maintain technological capabilities that empower great science and also providing seed funding for new ideas that generate promising pilot results so critical for competitive grant applications," John Reed, the institute's president and CEO, said in the statement. "At the other end of the spectrum, this remarkable gift provides much-needed support for translating our discoveries into novel strategies for prevention, diagnosis and therapy of diseases."

Exactly how much money from the gift will be used toward which priorities has yet to be decided.

"Burnham is still evaluating how to best allocate the funds so as to make the most impact on human health," Heidi Chokeir, a spokeswoman for the institute, told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

Sanford, a financial services magnate who serves as chairman and CEO of United National Corp., gave the institute $20 million in 2007 through his Sanford Health, allowing it to create the Sanford Children's Health Research Center, which has sites in Sioux Falls and La Jolla, Calif., the latter within the campus of Sanford-Burnham.

In addition to the La Jolla campus, the institute operates an $85 million, 175,000-square-foot facility that opened in October in Orlando, Fla., within the Lake Nona 'Medical City,' and maintains an affiliation with the University of California, Santa Barbara. Burnham employs 1,042 people, of which 827 are scientific staffers.

The institute was established in 1976 as the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation, and was renamed once before in 1996 for businessman Malin Burnham, after he joined with an anonymous donor to give $10 million.

Sanford-Burnham is one of four institutes that have joined together to carry out stem cell research in a partnership renamed for Sanford after he donated $30 million to the effort in 2008. The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine last month broke ground on a $126 million research facility following more than a year of financing delays wrought by California's budget problems.