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La Jolla’s Salk Institute and Scripps Research to expand — ‘good news’ for San Diego life sciences

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies will add a $250 million Center for Science and Technology.
A rendering depicts the $250 million Center for Science and Technology that the Salk Institute for Biological Studies plans to build in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Salk Institute)

The undertaking is expected to help in the development of new drugs and therapeutics.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Scripps Research, a pair of private science centers in La Jolla known globally for their breakthroughs in areas ranging from cancer to COVID-19, will undergo major expansions, stoking the region’s already thriving life sciences industry.

Both plan to develop large new research buildings in what could become a flood of growth. Their neighbor, UC San Diego, is trying to raise millions of dollars to build a home for the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science as well as another stand-alone biomedical lab complex.

The four projects likely would cost up to $800 million and help cement San Diego’s standing as the third-largest life sciences cluster in the United States, based on data from CBRE.

Scripps Research will be the first to put a shovel in the ground. In November it will start building a $100 million laboratory and parking complex on the east side of North Torrey Pines Road.

The center will reinforce Scripps’ “bench-to-bedside” approach to science. The goal is to more quickly turn basic discoveries made in the lab into new drugs and therapies. The institute already has a company, known as Calibr, that develops drugs.

A rendering shows the $100 million research and parking complex that Scripps Research will build.
A rendering shows the $100 million research and parking complex that Scripps Research will build.
(Courtesy of Scripps Research)

The new building also will have a BSL3, a specialized lab facility used for infectious-disease drug discovery and pandemic preparedness. The institute has been doing a lot of work related to COVID-19 vaccines and anti-viral drugs.

Nearby, the Salk Institute is beginning a $500 million fundraising campaign to help pay for the Center for Science and Technology, as well as an expansion of its faculty and staff.

The center, which will cost roughly $250 million, will focus heavily on Salk specialties, including cancer, aging, neurodegenerative diseases, climate change, plant biology and computational biology.

The institute hasn’t assigned labs yet. But the center could become home for Tony Hunter, the famed Salk biochemist whose research helped lead to the creation of Gleevec, one of the most important anti-cancer drugs ever developed. Hunter recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of working at Salk.

The new fundraising campaign “will take the Salk to a whole different level in science, providing space for research that we are desperate to do,” said Steven Johnson, a Salk spokesman.

The new building will be on North Torrey Pines Road, a short distance from Salk’s famous twin laboratory towers and central courtyard. This will be the first large addition at Salk since 1995, when the institute added what is now known as the East Building.

The new expansions will benefit the economy of greater San Diego, said Lynn Reaser, an economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.

“Because life sciences depends critically on basic research, the expansion of these two facilities represents good news,” Reaser said. “The field provides potential solutions to some of the most pressing problems of our time, including health, climate, environment, energy and the food supply.” ◆