The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute received the largest donation in San Diego’s history — a $275 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

The funds, which will be dispensed over the course of 10 years, will help the La Jolla-based research center to switch its focus from basic research to helping speed up the drug discovery process for diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’ve done outstanding basic discovery research for 37 years, but the goal now is to really accelerate the movement of those laboratory discoveries to therapeutics that directly help patients,” said Kristiina Vuori, Sanford-Burnham president and interim CEO.

Sanford-Burnham also plans to refine drug development by growing stronger partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, including those it is already working with such as Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pfizer Inc. A “more robust therapeutics-discovery engine” will help generate future revenue for Sanford-Burnham through such partnerships with the commercial sector, the institute said.

Its current operating budget is about $150 million — making this recent gift a game-changing addition to the institute’s funding stream, Vuori said.

The second-largest donation in the region was a $230 million gift in 2003 to National Public Radio from the estate of Joan Kroc of Rancho Santa Fe.