$20 million gift to aid research at Burnham

Researchers and scientists joined board members from Burnham Institute for Medical Research, board trustees of Sanford Health, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and philanthropist Denny Sanford at a dedication ceremony April 25 for the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center to be located at the La Jolla facility.

“His goal is to die broke and cure one childhood disease before he dies,” said Andrea Moser, vice president of communications for Burnham.

Sanford presented the gift to Burnham Institute last November following a serendipitous meeting with trustee Douglas Manchester and his wife.

“A little less than a year ago, the Manchesters and Denny were on a flight together,” said Burnham Chairman Malin Burnham.

After learning of their mutual interest in health and research, they exchanged information and set up a meeting. Sanford was quick to act. He wanted to complement the clinical facilities of Sanford Health with the research resources at Burnham.

“It’s because we all believe in the same thing,” Burnham said.

Dr. Fred Levine was named director for the center. His staff will include investigators Hudson Freeze, Ph.D., Jose Luis Millan, Ph.D. and Yu Yamaguchi, M.D., Ph.D. Researchers Mark Mercola, Ph.D., Lorenzo Puri, M.D., Ph.D. and Evan Snyder, M.D., Ph.D. were named associate members.

The 25,000 square foot center is designed for a staff of nine senior faculty scientists and 40 additional staff.

Coinciding with the formation of the new Sanford Center is the centralization of all children’s health research initiatives at Burnham.

This reorganization will allow researchers to collaborate more effectively both internally and with clinical and research applications at Sanford Health, Burnham officials said.

The Burnham Institute for Medical Research is comprised of five disease-focused research centers and ranks among the top 25 research organizations worldwide.

Sanford, a long-time advocate of healthcare, transformed the Sioux Valley Health System to Sanford Health with a $400 million gift in 1996. The medical system includes more than 360 physicians, 150 facilities and 12,000 employees, making it the largest employer in the region.

Sanford Health plans to develop a second research center for children’s health at their Sioux Falls campus.

“Truly this is the beginning of a new dawn for health care for children,” Burnham said. “He’s a visionary type of a person.”