John C. Reed has resigned from his role as CEO of the La Jolla-based Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute to head Swiss biotechnology giant Roche Holding AG’s pharmaceutical research and early development division.

Reed, 54, spent 21 years at Sanford-Burnham, and the past 11 as its chief executive. He will relocate and begin working at Roche’s Basel, Switzerland-based headquarters in April, but will continue at Sanford-Burnham as an adjunct professor.

“While I am sad to be leaving the Institute, I look forward to the potential for collaborations in the future between the two organizations,” Reed said in a statement. “I am confident in the financial strength of the Institute following the strongest year of grant revenue in its history.”

Under Reed’s tenure, the research institution, formerly known as the Burnham Institute, grew extensively. It opened a second research campus in Orlando, and received its largest single donation of $50 million from credit card executive T. Denny Sanford, for whom the institute was renamed.

Reed earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and has authored more than 800 scientific articles. He holds more than 100 patents, and has served on the board of directors for several San Diego companies and organizations, including life sciences trade organization Biocom, Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.

Kristiina Vuori, president of Sanford-Burnham, will take over all leadership responsibilities in the interim until a new CEO is found. Vuori, a cancer researcher, joined the Sanford-Burnham faculty in 1996, became director of its cancer center in 2006 and its president in April 2010.

— Meghana Keshavan