SBP Pathways Summer 2017

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Karen and Stuart Tanz: Getting to the Finish Line Faster

The SBP-GSK Center for Translational Neuroscience Last year, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) teamed up with our Institute to create the SBP-GSK Center for Translational Neuroscience. The Center is designed to advance research into difficult neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias and bring together experts from SBP and GSK to investigate factors that influence brain function and potentially reverse or slow down neurodegeneration. The aim is to identify and validate new therapeutic targets and bolster research dedicated to translational neuroscience.

Scientists from the Tanz Initiative gather with the Tanz family Front Row: Huaxi Xu, Ph.D., Peter St. George-Hyslop, M.D., Stuart & Karen Tanz, Eduard Sergienko, Ph.D., Elena Pasquale, Ph.D., Paul Fraser, M.D. Second Row: Zach Tanz, Alban Espiasse, Michael Jackson, Ph.D., Sarah Hudson, Ph.D. Third Row: Anne Bang, Ph.D., Artur Cane, Sirkku Pollari, Ph.D., Deborah Pre, Ph.D., Yingjun Zhao, Ph.D.

Thanks to the philanthropic vision of Stuart and Karen Tanz, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and the University of Toronto’s Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases have combined their strengths in a unique collaboration to find new treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. The couple discuss their motivation and why selecting SBP as a partner in research and drug discovery will speed results.

Q: What sparked your interest in neurodegeneration? Stuart Tanz: It goes back to my father, Mark Tanz, who built one of the great research centers in Canada. That sparked my interest in medicine. I witnessed firsthand my grandmother Gertrude, or Gertie, as we called her, suffer and decline from Alzheimer’s disease. She passed away in June 1986, while she was in her early 80s. It was sad to see such a sharp, vibrant matriarch slowly and then very rapidly decline. Karen Tanz: We’re doing this for the next generation. We have a granddaughter now who’s two years old. We want her to grow up in a world where there is hope—and treatments—for patients who are at risk of developing these devastating diseases. Q: Why did you select SBP? Karen Tanz: It was such an organic, complementary combination of strengths. The University of Toronto has strong research and clinical units. And SBP is amazing. It’s known for taking it to the next level, that is, taking what we learn from research and turning it into

drug discovery in the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (Prebys Center). The robotics technology is so impressive—thousands of drugs can be screened very quickly. I just love how this place works. It’s less bureaucratic than other research institutes. Stuart, being the businessman, wants results now. Stuart Tanz: I posed the question—how are we going to get to the finish line? SBP proposed that we combine the efforts of both organizations to get to the finish line faster. We’re taking the brightest from two world-renowned institutions and bringing them together with the Tanz Initiative. Q: What motivates your philanthropy? Stuart Tanz: We’ve been so lucky in the business world, just being in the right place at the right time. We want to be able to give back and share our success with others. This initiative can achieve much more than the accomplishments of two great institutions separately. As they say in the world of Wall Street, one plus one can be greater than three.

According to Min Li, Ph.D., SVP, global head of neurosciences at GSK, “Neurodegenerative diseases cross many fields of science, and this partnership takes full advantage of the depth and breadth of expertise in both organizations to advance our shared mission of helping patients through the discovery of new medicines.”

GSK’s expertise in neuroscience includes the Neurosciences Therapy Area Unit (NSTAU)—which in addition to the Center in San Diego, has locations in Shanghai (China), Philadelphia (U.S.), and London (UK). The NSTAU focuses on neurodegenerative and neuroexcitatory disorders and seeks to deliver clinically transformative and commercially performing medicines by intervening in fundamental nerve function. GSK recently appointed Paul Wren, Ph.D., senior director neurosciences at GSK, to lead GSK’s partnership in the collaboration with SBP scientists and will be based at the Center in San Diego. The SBP-GSK Center for Translational Neuroscience is one more sign of a growing emphasis on neuroscience at our Institute.

“This unique alliance provides an opportunity to combine the complimentary expertise of scientists from both organizations to address one of the greatest unmet needs of our society today.” Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of SBP

Center for Translational Neuroscience


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