Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information and resources (last updated 5/27/20)
coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you should know

Sanford Burnham Prebys is actively working to minimize the impact the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has on our community. We are currently engaged in COVID-19 treatment research and have established a task force to monitor the public health crisis, establish guidelines and provide you with useful information.

Please check this page regularly for updates.
For health and safety recommendations, the Institute task force is following developments published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), California Department of Public Health and San Diego County Government.


Our research

Through an approach called drug repositioning, Sanford Burnham Prebys researchers are currently testing known drugs that may inhibit the virus. Learn more below.

Health resources

We encourage you to visit these key government agency websites for the latest health and safety guidelines.

Campus info: visitors and staff

The campus is currently closed to visitors and non-essential personnel.

See below for specific information on current campus services and actions for visitors and staff. 

scientist in fully protective suit

Your support

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Our research

Q&A with Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., Director of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program

How are Sanford Burnham Prebys scientists working to combat COVID-19?
Our scientists are looking to find known drugs that can inhibit the virus. Typically, it can take five to 10 years to bring a new drug to the market. However, the approach we are taking at Sanford Burnham Prebys, known as drug repositioning, can cut this development time dramatically. Since we are looking at FDA-approved drugs that have been proven to be safe in humans, they could rapidly get to people infected with the virus. If successful, drug repositioning will likely be the fastest path to find a therapeutic solution for the virus. 

Longer term, work has been ongoing to develop broad-spectrum antivirals. These medicines would work against many viruses, not just one. For example, if we had developed a broad-spectrum antiviral that works on MERS or SARS, it is likely it could be used for the current COVID-19 outbreak. Ideally, the therapy could be given prophylactically to block the rapid spread of the disease.

What are the benefits of drug repositioning? 
Drug repositioning is advantageous because FDA-approved drugs have already completed safety testing—meaning they have been used in people and are known to be safe. Safety testing can take years to complete. This means that if we do find a therapy that is effective against COVID-19, we can bring it to patients much faster than a novel treatment.

Any predictions for how far the virus will spread in the U.S.? 

We eagerly await large-scale testing for the virus so we can get a better understanding of how widespread it currently is in the U.S. It is difficult to predict a potential trajectory of viral spread in the U.S. until those numbers become available. 

But as of now, I have not seen any evidence of disease containment. It will be instructive to see how the situation plays out in other advanced democracies that are coping with a viral outbreak, including South Korea and Europe, to get a better idea of what might happen here.In the meantime, our scientists are on the front lines studying the virus, understanding how it works and researching possible treatments that may save many lives.

A discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic with Sumit Chanda, Ph.D. and Evan Snyder, M.D., Ph.D., lead scientists on the frontline of coronavirus research at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

The Chanda Lab is racing to screen 13,000 compounds—already tested in humans—to find a drug that can slow or stop SARS-CoV-2.

Meet Laura Riva, Ph.D. and Laura Martin-Sancho, Ph.D., two postdocs in the Chanda Lab, working around the clock to find a drug to treat COVID-19.

Latest news

Campus info

Please note: The campus is currently closed to visitors, children and non-essential personnel.

California Governor Newsom and California State Public Health officials have issued an order for anyone living in the state to stay home except for essential needs until further notice, except for those providing essential services.


San Diego County public health guidance

  • Starting May 1, everyone must wear face coverings anywhere in public they come within 6 feet of another person. These face coverings should not be medical-grade surgical or N95 masks, which should be reserved for health care workers; homemade masks, bandanas, and scarves are recommended and can be washed and reused.
  • Effective, Saturday, April 4, all employees of essential businesses interfacing with the public will be required to wear facial coverings.
  • The County has allowed beaches to open with certain limitations, but cities will decide whether to open their beaches. Check before visiting

    • You can swim, surf, paddleboard, kayak, snorkel. You can walk or run on the beach. You cannot sit or lie down on the beach. You can take dogs where beaches allow them.Beach parking lots need to remain closed.

    • However, each city is responsible for deciding whether to open its beaches. Check before visiting. Beach parking lots need to remain closed.

  • Law enforcement agencies throughout the region will be making sure that residents are adhering to these public health orders and maintaining physical distancing, and issuing citations and fines as needed to ensure safety.


For visitors

On-site meetings have been cancelled or postponed until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience as we all work together to slow the spread of the virus.

For staff

New campus procedures have been put in place to comply with recent updates to the San Diego County public health order and as part of our continuing efforts to ensure the health and safety of our employees.
Effective Thursday, May 28, all employees will be required to:

  • Complete an online daily COVID-19 screening questionnaire before coming to work.
  • Have their temperature taken at set campus entry points before entering any Sanford Burnham Prebys building.
  • Enter campus only through designated entry points, to ensure the new required symptom and temperature screening protocols are completed prior to entry into any Sanford Burnham Prebys building.

The safety and well-being of our Sanford Burnham Prebys community is our highest priority. We appreciate that these are unsettling times but take comfort in knowing that we are a resilient, resourceful, caring, and responsible community and that we will negotiate the challenges and disruptions that are coming our way together. Thank you all for your support and cooperation.

Please continue to check your email for further updates and instructions.

A special staff website is available with the latest updates and resources.
VPN is not required but you will need your SBP login.

SBP Staff Coronavirus Website


*Definition of essential services
Essential services that will remain open include:

  • Essential state and local government functions including law enforcement 
  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies 
  • Food sources: grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants 
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry services
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