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Wednesday, October 12, 2005 | “The Burnham Institute has a single mission – to perform outstanding basic discovery research in the life-sciences area.” That’s the message from The Burnham Institute’s John C. Reed, President, CEO, a science leader with a Ph.D. and MD., and the husband of pretty Muffy Walker, this year’s Gala’s Chairperson. But we will get back to the last part.

The Burnham Institute has more than 550 brilliant scientists delving into research on cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurological conditions. This year’s gala fund-raiser event’s recipient categories are The Burnham Institute’s arthritis programs in conjunction with the Center for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases.

It’s a team effort at The Burnham Institute to solve life-science issues and it was a team effort to formulate this year’s black tie fund-raiser. John Reed’s wife Muffy didn’t “go to town” organizing the gala, but rather to the ocean. The theme for last Saturday’s event was “Under the Sea” and Muffy went all out. Guests at the transformed Burnham Institute were greeted by mermaids in plastic air bubbles and people costumed as jellyfish. Muffy was exemplar of an undersea princess in a flowing, shimmering, light turquoise gown. Spectacular. The event was, too!

Lots of Burnhams were there, including Malin and Roberta, Esther, Cathe, Marybeth and John with Laurie VancenBerg. Malin Burnham has been a formidable and generous funding member of The Burnham Institute since 1996.

Also there enjoying the aquatic fun were Sheri and Dr. Stuart Jamieson (the genius UCSD cardio surgeon behind heart and lung transplants), Lina and David Hale, Nancy and Matt Brower, Ken Woolcott, Diane and Robert Winokur of San Francisco, Karen and Stuart Tanz, Bobbi and Bill Warren, Armi and Albert Williams, Sheila and Jeff Lipinski and Lisa and Dr. Stuart Lipton. Dr. Lipton is working on ground-breaking aging research at Burnham … Nobel Prize consideration research is the buzz.

Amidst the tuxedos and gowns were Nancy and Ray Funderbunk, Joan and Brent Jacobs, Carla and Fernando Guiteriez, Lyn and Stephen Krant, Doug Manchester, Carrie and Sia Pakroo, Diane Triemstra, Carol and Larry Viet, Linden Blue of General Atomic, Judy and Jack White and Congresswoman Susan Davis and Dr. Steve Davis.

Among the Burnham Institute faculty there in addition to Dr. Stuart Lipton included Robert Liddington, the Acting Director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center, Tomas Mustelin, the Professor and Director of the Burnham’s Program on Inflammatory Diseases, Evan Snyder, the Director of the Stem Cells and Regeneration Program, and Professor Jeffrey Smith. All brilliant like a phosphorous red tide in the moonlight!

Among those enjoying Pamplemousse perfection canapés by Jeffrey Strauss were Caroline and Nico Nirenberg (he’s Chairman of the Board for The Burnham Institute), Gina Dronet, Karin and Gary Eastham, Lynn Gorguze and Scott Peters, Joan and Brent Jacobs, Sophia and Leon Kassel, and Reinette and Marvin Levine. Also there were Greg Lucier, he’s the Chairman and CEO of Invitrogen, the event’s title sponsor, Marilena Lucier, Denyse and Tim Browne who flew in from San Francisco, Toby and Howard Cohen, Drs. Jeannie and Gregg Fontana of Bel Air and Marleigh and Alan Gleicher.

Dining was “under the sea” themed with aquarium accents, fish wine goblets and crab croissants before a superlative dinner by Pamplemousse’s Jeffrey Strauss. The live auction alone raised in excess of $600,000 with temptations of private chefs and private jets.

Dancing was full throttle to the group Left4Dead. Some of the many very alive crew dancing were Roberta and Malin Burnham. They were on the dance floor all night and so were many others, all doing double helix, atomic groove maneuvers! Only positive ions and duos here.

Architect James Ferguson of McGraw Baldwin Architects (part of the firm that designed a recent addition to the Burnham buildings) was there with his girlfriend Linda. James had told Linda to dress fancy for her birthday surprise that evening and be ready to dance. And dance they did, one of their favorite things to do. It was quite a birthday for Linda, and quite a festive celebration for a very important cause.

As John C. Reed says, “from our research comes the power to cure.”

To learn more about The Burnham Institute, visit

Margo Schwab, an alumna of the University of San Diego’s graduate business school, reports on social/charity events, celebrities, restaurants and from time to time breaking scoops.

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