Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg (RES ’63) have a deep-seated inspiration for their philanthropy. “We’ve always been interested in alleviating human suffering,” says Dr. Ginsburg, a retired ophthalmologist-turned-real- estate-entrepreneur. “We’re trying to get people infected, if you will, with the desire to pursue a scientific career for the purpose of improving the human condition.”
In February 2021, the couple made a transformation contribution to UCLA in hopes of doing just that by establishing the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Center for Precision Genomic Medicine in the UCLA Institute for Precision Health. The new center will use innovative genomic technologies to improve diagnosis and to develop new therapies and personalized treatments for a wide variety of genetic disorders. In addition, the gift includes support for a new multidisciplinary clinic on campus near Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and other UCLA Health specialty clinics.
The couple researched several institutions across the country, but soon decided on UCLA. “We have this special connection to UCLA and wanted to create something in the community,” says Charlotte Ginsburg. “And our desire to address the human condition fit with what UCLA wanted to do.”
"The most important thing is to pass on the innovation, the capability and sense of excitement to the younger generation"
Established in 2016, the UCLA Institute for Precision Health in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA was created to revolutionize health and how diseases — from cardiovascular disease and cancer to diseases of the eye and neurological disorders — are treated. The new Ginsburg Center will draw upon physicians and researchers from the institute, as well as from human genetics, medical genetics, rare diseases, computational medicine and other disciplines.
The gift also created the Ginsburg Research Fellowship and an annual symposium that will explore population genetics research and ethics. “Having seminars, targeting young people who are coming along, and encouraging them to go forward and ignite them with a passion, is important to us,” Charlotte Ginsburg says.
The couple’s philanthropy is driven by a continued quest for knowledge and a desire to empower future physicians and scientists. “The most important thing is to pass on the innovation, the capability and sense of excitement to the younger generation”, Dr. Ginsburg says.
No matter how good you do in life, if you can’t innovate for the younger people who are going to carry the torch, you haven’t done your job.”
The married couple have been inseparable for 41 years, ever since a friend introduced them at a party. Dr. Ginsburg, who completed his residency at UCLA in 1963, maintained offices in Wilmington and Redondo Beach, until stepping away from practice in 1990. The Ginsburgs then turned their attention to real estate development and philanthropy. Over the years, the couple has supported the performing arts, engineering, medicine and research, among other causes. “But we’re really interested in the future,” Charlotte Ginsburg says, “and alleviating pain and suffering — that’s our number-one priority.”
Dr. Ginsburg recalls as a physician having had many difficult conversations with patients during which he had to inform them they were losing their eyesight. “It’s a very unfortunate and dismal aspect of ophthalmology,” he says. “So in my lifetime to be able to come back 20 or 30 years later and realize that we may soon have a capability of working with macular degeneration and making it possible for these people to retain their vision is enchanting.”
The Ginsburgs are particularly excited about CRISPR technology, which uses enzymes acting much like a word processor’s search-and-replace function to take an undesirable trait from DNA and remove or substitute it to affect the expressivity of the gene. (The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to two scientists, including one from UC Berkeley, who developed the technology.) “We are just on the border of being able to do some really great things,” Dr. Ginsburg says, “and we’re the type of people who want things done yesterday, just like this COVID-19 vaccine that was prioritized. We have this feeling with this too: Let’s get it started, let’s get some other donors and move things along and do some good.”
The couple’s philanthropy is propelled by a variety of influences, including such mentors as UCLA benefactors Doris and Dr. Jules Stein (a fellow ophthalmologist) and Lew Wasserman.
“Jules and Doris Stein’s perception as to how important it is to donate money to a thing that involves vision had an impact,” Dr. Ginsburg says. “Lew Wasserman had the unique capability of seeing the future — seeing what was happening in society, where research was going and what the value would be. He would provoke me, or anybody in his presence, into doing as well as you can.”
Charlotte Ginsburg, who has been involved with several nonprofits, also works to inspire others to give in whatever way they can. “With my fundraising experience, I am often approached by individuals who ask, ‘We don’t have a lot of money, but how can we get involved?’ I say: ‘Volunteer, have a party at your home, bring some inner-city kids to the symphony or aquarium — whatever you can do, it will be really appreciated if it comes from your heart, whether it’s a donation or sharing of your time.’ People really respond to that.
“For us,” she adds, “the donation is really an expression of who we are and what we can pass on to others.”
To harness the power of genomics and genetics to transform medicine and reimagine biomedical research and health care by leveraging large data sets, genomics, and technology to develop a data-driven, individualized approach to improving patients’ lives.
- Develop a state-of-the-art clinical genetics and genomic medicine research center.
- Develop new therapeutics, including stem-cell and gene-editing (CRISPR) therapies for common and rare disorders.
- Utilize genetic testing at the population level to prevent diseases, such as familial breast and ovarian cancer.
- Develop high-throughput research infrastructure for discovery-based science and leverage emerging genetic knowledge, including adaptation of new imaging technologies and microfluidics.
- Identify and validate new drug targets based on newly discovered mutations.