Roche Recruits Sanford-Burnham CEO John Reed to Head Pharma Research

Xconomy San Diego — 

John Reed, who led San Diego’s Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute during a period of extraordinary growth, has resigned as CEO to become the head of pharmaceutical research and early development at Roche, the Swiss pharma giant.

Kristiina Vuori, who has served as the institute’s president for nearly three years, was named interim CEO, according to a statement issued last night.

Reed, 54, joined the institute 21 years ago as a prominent expert in programmed cell death and cancer. He was named CEO in January 2002, and talked with me at length last summer about his accomplishments at the Sanford-Burnham. Under his leadership, the institute expanded its facility atop Torrey Pines Mesa and opened a new campus in Lake Nona, FL. Reed also was instrumental in getting philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to donate $50 million to Sanford Burnham in 2010, which followed Sanford’s $30 million gift in 2008.

Reed plans to retain his association with the institute as an adjunct professor. (We later discussed the move by phone, and his comments are here).

“We have a strong foundation for continued growth, and we have complete confidence in Kristiina’s ability to lead through the management transition,” Sanford-Burnham board chairman M. Wainwright Fishburn said in the statement.

The statement also quotes Reed, saying he was “grateful to have led Sanford-Burnham over the past decade, especially in the growth of the institute’s work in translational research.

“While I am sad to be leaving the institute, I look forward to the potential for collaborations in the future between the two organizations. I am confident in the financial strength of the institute following the strongest year of grant revenue in its history, as well as in Dr. Vuori’s ability to lead through the time ahead. We have worked side-by-side in leading Sanford-Burnham, so she is uniquely qualified to guide a smooth transition and continued excellence.”

As a biomedical researcher, Reed is credited as an author in more than 850 medical research publications. He also was named as the world’s most highly cited scientist in the fields of cell biology and general medicine for research published from 1995 to 2005, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

Sanford-Burnham itself was ranked No. 1 for worldwide scientific impact, as measured in citations per publication, in the field of biology and biochemistry from 1999-2009. It also became the third-largest recipient of NIH funding among all laboratory research-based organizations in the nation, and second most efficient in innovation, based on patents issued per grant dollars awarded.

Vuori’s research has been focused mostly on understanding the molecular mechanisms of cancer metastasis. She was appointed to the faculty of Sanford-Burnham in 1996, named director of Sanford-Burnham’s NCI-designated cancer center in 2006, and was named president in April 2010.