Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics

Prebys Center for Drug Discovery

The Prebys Center has a track record of being a stellar partner of choice for academic, foundation and pharmaceutical partners

On average, we manage from 5 to 10 large collaborative agreements and numerous agreements, as well as working with individual investigators on specific projects, all of which are aimed at discovering and developing first in class novel small molecule and biologic therapeutics.

The current portfolio of projects includes targets for diseases such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease, cancer and metabolic disorders.


Why the Prebys Center?

We are able to organize cross-disciplinary teams of scientists toward a common goal, combining experience with innovative approaches and outstanding technical capabilities. We have particular expertise in prosecuting projects that require technically difficult assays to identify initial chemical matter, such as use of iPSC disease models in the drug discovery cascade and use of high content imaging assays to identify novel mechanism of action hits to inform druggable targets in a pathway.

Project management in partnering

The Prebys Center project managers play an important role in our collaborations, both those that involve Pharma/Biotech or academic drug discovery institutions and disease foundations. We work closely with the internal and external project team members and collaborators to devise project plans outlining the path to achievement of deliverables. Our team is comprised of project management trained professionals who have also had previous experiences in industry as drug discovery scientists and project leaders. We will be the interface between your project manager and the Prebys Center to ensure clarity on objectives, critical path activities and interdependencies of a project plan. The expertise of the team covers a range of therapeutic areas (including oncology, CNS, cardiovascular and metabolic disease) across the drug discovery stages and collectively we are experienced in assay development and high throughput screening, small molecule and large molecule medicinal chemistry through hit-to-lead and lead optimization, pre-clinical development.

Alliance management

The Prebys Center is committed to being the ‘partner of choice’ for both Pharma/Biotech and academic drug discovery institutions. The project managers at the Prebys Center are part of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Alliance Management Community and work closely with our StrategicAlliance colleagues to ensure that collaboration frameworks are outlined and partner needs are addressed and met.


Our partnerships

Disease foundation partners


In November 2014, a $1 million gift from Karen and Stuart Tanz established the Tanz Initiative, an international collaboration between Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto. The two life science powerhouses share a mission to accelerate new treatments to patients with neurodegenerative diseases. They bring complementary strengths to their new joint venture: the cutting-edge resources of the Institute’s drug discovery/optimization capabilities and the Tanz Centre’s expertise in neurobiology, preclinical testing of prototype therapeutics, and diagnostics for at-risk individuals.

The Tanz Initiative began by identifying three molecular targets, which play a role in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases. A fourth project is focused on modeling neurodegenerative diseases in a dish using human patient cells. This platform technology will be used across all the drug discovery projects to accelerate validation of the targets. To date, impressive progress has been made on these projects.


Pedal the Cause

Pedal the Cause, the only multi-day cycling fundraiser to support cancer research in San Diego, provides critical funding to the community’s National Cancer Institute-Designated cancer centers. As home to three NCI-designated cancer centers, San Diego has long been a powerhouse for cancer research, prevention, and treatment. Three singular institutions, Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, form the novel collaboration known as the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council, or C3, and work together to leverage their distinct and combined resources to accelerate innovative approaches for the treatment and prevention of cancer. The Prebys Center has received multiple Pedal the Cause-funded awards to apply its drug discovery expertise in collaboration with basic research scientists.



Collaboration4Cure is a groundbreaking initiative led by the Alzheimer’s San Diego, City and County of San Diego and San Diego’s premier research institutes, including Sanford Burnham Prebys’ Prebys Center at the epicenter. The goal of the program is to accelerate research and drug discovery projects to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In its first year, the C4C drug discovery program awarded eight highly novel and innovative projects, which are focused on developing a treatment/cure for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.


Cure CMD

Cure CMD’s mission is to advance research for treatments and a cure for the Congenital Muscular Dystrophies. In addition to community support and education programs, Cure CMD also provides funding through competitive research grants. 2015 recipient Dr. Anne Bang received an award to fund high throughput screens to identify small molecules that ameliorate laminopathy phenotypes in patient-specific cells.


Research in the rare Nieman-Pick Type C Disease

Niemann-Pick disease (NPD) is a neurodegenerative disorder similar to Alzheimer’s; however NPD mainly afflicts children. Similar to most other rare diseases, NPD has fewer devoted researchers compared to more common diseases, like cancer and heart disease. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Bang, Dr. Emily Pugach uses disease-specific models, often referred to as “disease-in-a-dish”, to find a new drug or chemical that makes the NPD patient cells look and behave more like cells from a healthy person. Her work is funded through Dana’s Angels Research Trust SOAR award.


Governmental and academic partners


Since 2013, the Mayo Clinic and Sanford Burnham Prebys’ Prebys Center have collaborated under a strategic agreement, which leverages Mayo’s world-class clinical innovation and medical research and SBP’s world-class laboratory research and drug discovery expertise. Our partnership is patient-focused; its mission is to deliver effective and safe drugs to the people who need them.



Sanford Burnham Prebys, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and the University of Michigan will embark on a $15.4 million effort to develop new systems for quickly screening libraries of drugs for potential effectiveness against schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has announced. SBP’s Prebys Center plays a critical role in the consortium. Under the direction of Anne Bang, Ph.D. it will develop assays and test prototype drug compounds to see if they induce the desired response in iPSC disease models from the consortium.



Sanford Burnham Prebys’ Prebys Center is a proud dedicated Center of NCI’s Drug Discovery and Development Program, called the Chemical Biology Consortium (CBC). The NCI Experimental Therapeutics (NExT) Program brings together chemical biologists and molecular oncologists from government, industry, and academia to address unmet needs in therapeutic oncology. To advance the NCI’s mission of bringing novel therapies to patients, and to fully exploit NCI’s expertise in the later stage of preclinical development, the Institute is now focusing efforts and resources on drug candidate identification and optimization to enhance the entry of early-stage drug candidates into the NCI therapeutics pipeline.



From 2008 – 2014, the Prebys Center was one of four national comprehensive centers in the concluded Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN), which was designed to facilitate drug development by providing early stage small molecule leads. Researchers used these leads to validate new drug targets with the potential to move the project into the drug development pipeline. MLPCN focused in areas, which may not be attractive for private sector development, such as rare diseases. During its time as a comprehensive center, the Prebys Center collaborated with hundreds of researchers in the US and worldwide on developing assays, performing high throughput high content screening, and medicinal chemistry for target validation and lead optimization studies on over 138 projects.


Pharma and biotech partners


Daiichi Sankyo, Inc. and Sanford Burnham Prebys have been collaborating in a strategic alliance. By working with us, scientists at Daiichi Sankyo can access to our deep human biology insights and drug discovery technology, with the ultimate goal of advancing lead drugs toward clinical trials together.