Billionaire Gives $50M to La Jolla Researchers - NBC 7 San Diego

Billionaire Gives $50M to La Jolla Researchers



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    T. Denny Sanford speaks with reporters Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007, in Sioux Falls, S.D., after announcing a $400 million donation to Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System. The system and its related hospitals and clinics will now be known as Sanford Health. The money will go toward improving children's health care. (AP Photo/Carson Walker)

    One of the world’s wealthiest men has committed $50 million to a research institute in La Jolla.

    T. Denny Sanford, who is estimated to be worth about $1 billion, has committed to five $10 million gifts to La Jolla’s Burnham Institute for Medical Research.

    The South Dakota businessman and La Jolla resident made the announcement Tuesday along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, the president and CEO of Burnham Institute for Medical Research John Reed, M.D., Ph.D. and philanthropist Malin Burnham.

    The center will be known as the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and will continue its work developing new drugs and treatments for patients living with cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, etc.

    Sanford said his grant is a challenge grant. It has to be matched or it goes away. “I’m confident that it will be matched,” he said.

    He urged others to join him to help the research center which he called “an outstanding milestone type of organization that has at its core, the development of the very best research, the hiring of the very best people and the success that can come from this.”

    Sanford credited Burnham, who gave his name to the institute in 1996, with helping convince him to donate, according to the North County Times.

    “I’m only half the pie, it’s up to the rest of you to kick in with me and join the party because it’s going to be a very, very winning team,” Sanford said.

    The La Jolla institute is not the only life science organization in San Diego to receive a gift from Sanford, who made much of his fortune in the  banking industry. The first was $20 million from Sanford Health in 2007 to create the Sanford Children's Health Research Center. Sanford also donated $30 million to a stem cell research consortium of local institutes, including Burnham, in 2008.

    California receives half of the biotech venture capital and biotech firms employ more than 280,000 workers in high-paying jobs according to Gov. Schwarzenegger who spoke at Tuesday’s announcement. He pointed out that although the donation would do so much for health care, it will also help ease unemployment.

    “Denny’s donations will create hundreds of jobs,” Schwarzenegger said. “In these economic jobs, I think creating jobs is very important.”

    Sanford, who ranked at No. 701 on Forbes' list of the richest people in the world, told the financial magazine in 2007, “I want to die broke.”

    At Tuesday's announcement, Gov. Schwarzengger joked about that infamous quote offering to help him with that wish.