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Research Institutions

"I had no doubt in my mind that Scripps is one of the premier research institutions in the world. It is a crown jewel of American science, and if we care about science in America, we must care about the research institutions where some of the best science is done.”

Gerald Chan, Chairman and CEO, Morningside Group
May 19, 2017

San Diego’s research institutes are the backbone of scientific innovation. They are the genesis of groundbreaking scientific advances that yield cures for diseases, algorithms in billions of smartphones worldwide, and state of the art medical devices used for treatment and care. They are also the catalyst of scientific startups and licensed technologies that play a critical role in San Diego’s globally recognized scientific research and development (R&D) ecosystem. In total, scientific R&D affects more than 100,000 local jobs and generates more than $14.4 billion in economic impact – a third of which stems from research institutes.

See EDC's economic impact study on the region's research institutions for more information.

Industry Highlights

  • Breaking records, saving lives: In 2018, a team from Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine set a new world record when they sequenced a genome in 19.5 hours, using San Diego-based company Illumina’s sequencing system. This specific genome sequencing saved the life of a one-year-old baby, who was born with a rare genetic disorder that went undiagnosed for days.1
  • World-wide recognition: In 2017, The Scripps Research Institute was identified by the Nature Index Innovation supplement as the most influential research institute in the world.2
  • Women scientists: In 2017, women scientists at UC San Diego surpassed men as leading recipients of the campus’ biggest research grants.3
  • The brains: There are 111 living National Academy of Science members and more than 2,600 postdocs within San Diego’s research institutes alone.4

Call to Action

Build supporting coalitions

  • Form a coalition with key national R&D centers to collectively advocate for research support.
  • Organize quarterly coordinated visits to D.C. with key local leaders, companies, and institutions.
  • Establish strategic funding partnerships with universities, philanthropists, foundations, and for-profit enterprises around the world.

Drive economic development opportunities

  • Coordinate with EDC’s Go Global Initiative to attract more foreign investment and partnerships.
  • Organize quarterly open-invitation briefings with public officials.
  • Release an annual economic impact report to continually promote messaging.

Address workforce needs

  • Redouble efforts on STEM training by developing short-term, technical training programs.
  • Focus efforts on important middle-skill positions, such as lab technicians and assistants.
  • Support and develop more interactive laboratories, such as The Salk Mobile Science Lab, JCVI’s “Discover Genomics!” program, and Qualcomm’s Thinkabit lab to better engage K-12 students in STEM.

Major Independent Research Institutes

The independent research institutes in San Diego owe their existence to the farsightedness of civic leaders. The Scripps Research Institute’s earliest roots go back to its 1924 founding by San Diego philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps as a small clinic focused on diabetes. Today, it is the largest independent research institute in the country. In the 1960s, the City of San Diego donated 27 acres to Jonas Salk to build the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and zoned the spectacular Torrey Pines Mesa for the development of science and technology. UC San Diego and the major independent institutes which now include Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute along with numerous others, form a dense concentration of research and development that has contributed to the creation of hundreds of companies that form the life science and technology sectors in San Diego. More than 26,000 workers now congregate around the Torrey Pines Mesa, which has become a scientific mecca for the world’s best researchers.

The Scripps Research Institute

  • Focus on molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, immunology, cardiovascular disease, virology and synthetic vaccine development
  • More than 3,000 employees including 285 faculty
  • Home to Kellogg School of Science and Technology for graduate studies
  • Highest NIH grant funding among all independent research institutes

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

  • Focus on AIDS, Alzheimer’s, aging, autism, birth defects, cancer, diabetes, gene therapy, plant biology and vision
  • Facility designed by world-renowned architect Louis Kahn recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the nation’s top ten buildings of the 20th century
  • 59 faculty including five Nobel laureates and 16 members of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Annual economic impact of $199 million on the San Diego community

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

  • Focus on cancer, neuroscience, infectious and inflammatory diseases, diabetes and obesity, and children’s health
  • Ranks third in the nation among independent research organizations in NIH grant funding
  • More than 1,200 employees including 89 faculty
  • Currently ranks third worldwide among all research organizations in citations per publication in the fields of biology and biochemistry

West Health Institute

  • Focus on creating new, cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality healthcare to all Americans
  • Wholly funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West as part of West Health
  • Developed Sense4Baby, a maternal monitor technology featured at Apple's Event in September 2015

J. Craig Venter Institute

  • Focus on human genomic medicine, infectious disease, plant, microbial and environmental genomics, synthetic biology and biological energy, bioinformatics, and software engineering
  • Employs more than 250 scientists and staff in more than 250,000 square feet of laboratory space
  • Sequenced a variety of important infectious disease agents such as the mosquito species, Aedes aegypti
  • Awarded five-year, $25 Million NIH grant to establish a genome center for infectious diseases



1. Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, “New Guinness World Records Title Set for Fastest Genetic Diagnosis,” 2018. 2. Nature, “Top 100 Institutions by Lens Score”, 2017 3. UC San Diego News Center, “Women Rising,” 2017. 4. San Diego Regional EDC and BW Research Partnership, “The Economic Impact of San Diego’s Research Institutions”, 2015