Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information and resources (last updated 4/2/20)
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), San Diego County Government and California Department of Public Health.


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.

Video: Meet the scientists on the front lines with coronavirus

Campus info

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

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

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

The Institute has suspended all non-essential operations.
Only activities deemed essential for facilitating the recovery to normal operations will be allowed on-campus. It is important for everyone to understand the strict limitations of maintenance mode: 

  • Maintenance mode means that no one except for essential lab, animal and facility staff, and key administrative staff, will be allowed on campus.
  • Labs will be asked to designate one to three critical staff members that will need to be on campus to tend to cells that cannot be frozen down, animals not cared for by Animal Resources, and equipment.
  • No lab staff will be able to perform experiments, unless they receive (rare) special permission.
  • The Animal Facility will continue to operate in a limited capacity, focusing on animal health and welfare, not research.
  • Other groups that will continue to operate on campus in a limited capacity include Facilities/Security, EH&S, and Receiving.

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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