The Epstein Family Foundation has granted Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute $1 million to pursue pancreatic and prostate cancer research.

The money, contributed by SBP board member Dan Epstein and his wife, Phyllis, will fund the work of Nicholas Cosford, associate director of translational research at Sanford Burnham’s federally designated cancer center.

Cosford has worked for more than 25 years to turn small molecules into chemical compounds capable of fighting disease. He said in a news release SBP is developing medicines that target tumor cells’ defense against the human body’s natural attacks on abnormal cells.

“By designing small molecules that act on apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagy (a cell survival mechanism), we hope to develop drugs that will destroy deadly tumor cells and improve patient outcomes,” said Cosford, who is himself fighting prostate cancer.

Epstein, a member of the institute’s board since 2011, said he is pleased to help advance research into two particularly challenging types of cancer.

La Jolla-based SBP is an independent nonprofit employing about 1,100 scientists and staff members in California and Florida.