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Sanford-Burnham appoints Nisen as CEO

Dr. Perry Nisen

The board of La Jolla's Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has appointed biotech executive Perry Nisen as its new CEO.

Nisen, formerly senior vice president for science and innovation at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), takes the helm from Kristiina Vuori, president of the institute, who had been serving as interim CEO since March 2013, when former CEO John Reed left to go to Roche Pharmaceuticals.

As CEO, Nisen will oversee business development, strategic partnerships and fundraising initiatives. But one of his main functions will be to implement the institute’s strategic vision that was unveiled in January, with the goal of more quickly translating basic research discoveries into pharmaceutical treatments for diseases and other ailments.

"This vision includes priorities that will be led by Dr. Nisen to diversify revenue through expanded clinical and commercial partnerships and a more robust therapeutics-discovery engine," the institute said in a statement.

Nisen said he was "excited to join a team of talented scientists who are committed to high-yield research." And Vuori said she looked forward to working closely with Nisen "as we accelerate the translation of basic research discoveries into innovative therapies."

Nisen was chosen after a six-month international search. Chairman Gregory Lucier, who served on the search committee, said one reason Nisen was chosen is that his resume included overseeing innovations at GSK as well as formerly working as head of cancer research at Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) — where he helped develop a pipeline of treatments — and professor of neuro-oncology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Lucier said the ability to straddle the line between academia, lab research and corporate work would come in handy as the Institute devotes more time to drug discovery and development.

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