In March, Merck announced that it will establish the non-profit California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) on the mesa “to accelerate the translation of basic biomedical research into innovative, new medicines to treat disease.” Over seven years, Merck will provide up to $90 million for the institute, to be headed by the world-renowned scientist and biotech entrepreneur Peter G. Schultz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schultz, Scripps Professor of Chemistry at TSRI, headed the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) on the mesa until 2010. He wound up on “Biotech Beach” in 1999 when Novartis recruited him. At that time he was a professor of chemistry and a HHMI Investigator in San Francisco.
Today, however, Dr. Schultz could serve as a spokesperson for San Diego’s BIOCOM, the world’s largest regional life science association. “There is a lot of scientific talent here,” said Dr. Schultz. Like many other leaders of San Diego’s life sciences ecosystem, he attributed the community’s collegiality to the density of research institutions.
“In San Diego, it’s easy to collaborate with other labs that have the expertise that you need for your research,” added Dr. Schultz. “For example, if you need an expert on about nuclear receptors, you can contact Ron Evans at the Salk. If it’s stem cells, you get in touch with Rusty Gage, also at the Salk.”
Dr. Schultz noted that San Diego’s four major academic institutions are open to collaborative projects such as the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, which opened recently on the mesa.
“There’s something very special about the synergy among the players here,” said Duane Roth, CEO of the non-profit Connect, which helps link San Diego’s inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources needed to be successful. Established in 1985, Connect has served as a model for similar organizations in the U.S.
From his lab at TSRI, Dr. Schultz can walk not only to Salk, but also to Burnham and many UC San Diego labs. “Since we’re so close together, it’s easy to interact,” he said. “In San Francisco, the academic research institutions are more distant from each other.”
Also within easy walking distance of TSRI is Ambrx, one of the biotechs co-founded by Schultz in San Diego.
Stephen K. Burley, M.D., D.Phil., a biotech innovation consultant based in San Diego, served as Eli Lilly & Co.’s Distinguished Lilly Research Scholar until earlier this year. In his Lilly position and previous role as CSO at SGX Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Burley frequently traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the U.S.
“San Diego is seen as a vibrant, successful biotechnology hub with an excellent talent pool,” said Dr. Burley, who came to San Diego in 2002 from Rockefeller University where he was the Richard and Isabel Furlaud Professor and a HHMI investigator.