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Recent developments at the Burnham Institute

The Burnham Buzz -- April 2008

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute


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Credit: logo provided by Burnham Institute for Medical Research

New Focus on Children's Health

Burnham Institute for Medical Research will unveil the new Sanford Children's Health Research Center at a ceremony on Burnham's campus on Friday, April 25. Fred Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of the center, will introduce the newly appointed Sanford Investigators. The center was established to facilitate collaboration between Burnham and Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The center was made possible by a $20 million donation from philanthropist Denny Sanford and facilitated by Sanford Health.

Flies with Heart Disease

Fruit flies may hold the key to understanding heart disease in humans. A new model for the study of dilated cardiomyopathy has been developed by Dr. Rolf Bodmer by knocking out the Distrophin gene in the common fruit fly. The fruit fly model will allow for rapid identification of markers for the disease, as well as testing for potential new therapies.

Controlling Cancer

Dr. John Reed and his graduate student Lorena Puto have identified a new mechanism of epigenetic control of gene expression that may be associated with cancer and neurodegeneration. Epigenetic therapies are already in clinical use for the treatment of cancer, and understanding the mechanisms of epigenetic control of gene expression may help determine which tumors will respond best to an epigenetic therapy.

Of Mice and Men: Mouse model for the study of Muscular Dystrophy

A new mouse model for the study of Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a type of muscular dystrophy, has been developed by Dr. Ze'ev Ronai and a worldwide team of researchers. The protein RNF5 is over-produced in the mice, resulting in extensive muscle damage similar to that seen in IBM patients. The IBM mouse model will allow researchers to further study the mechanisms underlying development of the disease, as well as test potential new therapies.

What do Embryonic Placenta Development and Cancer Have in Common?

Dr. Bob Oshima's laboratory has discovered that the same regulatory protein may be responsible for both embryonic placenta development and colon cancer. The protein, called Ets2, reads the genomic instructions to produce certain types of cells, including those responsible for forming the placenta. Ets2 also controls a gene that safeguards against cancer. This discovery may explain a recent finding that Down's syndrome patients have a decreased incidence of colon cancer, as those with Down's syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21 which contains the Ets2 gene.


For more information or to schedule an interview with a Burnham researcher, please contact:

Burnham Institute
Andrea Moser
Vice President, Communications
Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Russo Partners, LLC
David Schull
Russo Partners, LLC

Heidi Chokeir, Ph.D.
Assistant Account Executive
Russo Partners, LLC

About Burnham Institute for Medical Research

Burnham Institute for Medical Research uses a unique, collaborative approach to medical research to reveal the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devise the innovative therapies of tomorrow. In recent years, Burnham has become one of the fastest growing research institutes in the country. Burnham ranks among the top 25 organizations worldwide (according to the Institute for Scientific Information) for its research impact and among the top four research institutes nationally for NIH grant funding. The Institute is organized into five disease-focused research centers: a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center; the Del E. Webb Center for Neurosciences, Aging and Stem Cell Research; the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center; the Diabetes & Obesity Research Center; and the Sanford Children's Health Research Center. Burnham is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation headquartered in La Jolla, California, with campuses in Orlando, Florida and Santa Barbara, California. For more information, please visit

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