The Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation has donated $4 million to the University of California Global Health Institute to support new cross-campus and interdisciplinary education and research programs that aim to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable people and communities throughout California and across the globe.
The Los Angeles–based foundation was founded by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a UCLA faculty member, inventor and philanthropist, and his wife, Michele Chan, a television and film actress.
"Students are demanding a global education, and one mission of the Global Health Institute is to prepare the next generation of global health leaders," said institute co-director Thomas J. Coates, the Michael and Sue Steinberg Endowed Professor of Global AIDS Research and founding director of the Center for World Health at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Health System. "We provide students with real-world experiences and skills essential for their success in working with partners around the world to provide meaningful solutions to global health problems."
A part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers who is ranked by Forbes as the wealthiest American in the health care industry and the wealthiest resident of Los Angeles, Soon-Shiong is an innovative entrepreneur who has pioneered groundbreaking treatments in diabetes and cancer. He is also executive director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute and a UCLA visiting professor of bioengineering and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics.
Soon-Shiong developed the nation's first biological chemotherapy nanoparticle, called Abraxane, now approved for the treatment of breast cancer and lung cancer. Abraxane has succeeded in Phase 3 trials in pancreatic cancer and melanoma. He also created and later sold two multibillion-dollar companies, American Pharmaceutical Partners and Abraxis Bioscience.
"We look at this gift not merely as a donation for today, but as a partnership for tomorrow," said Soon-Shiong. "The UC Global Health Institute has a distinguished legacy of working to cure the ill and enhance the well-being of those in need the world over. Supporting the talented and dedicated individuals who enable the institute to do so — from the classroom to the lab — is a true honor."
This gift, the first installment of which was given anonymously in 2011 at Chan and Soon-Shiong's request, will be used to fund research fellowships and scholarships for UC faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate and professional students and will support unique multi-campus, interdisciplinary research programs.
At the core of the the institute's mission is a commitment to expanding educational opportunities that would not be possible without the collaboration of multiple campuses and disciplines. This gift will fund the initial strategic planning for a multi-campus master's degree program in global health — the first of its kind. At present, a proposal for the two-year degree program is under campus review.
In addition, the gift will enable the Global Health Institute to launch new initiatives, such as a 10-campus lecture series that will use technology to connect people across the UC system and a "global health incubator" to generate ideas to help solve the world's pressing global health problems.
Soon-Shiong and his wife were born and raised in South Africa. He received surgical and research training at the University of British Columbia and at UCLA under the mentorship of Haile Debas, director of the UC Global Health Institute and chancellor emeritus of UC San Francisco.
"As an African, and as a former academic surgeon and researcher, Patrick is keenly aware of the value and promise of different disciplines coming together to improve health for the underserved," said Debas, UC San Francisco's executive director of global health sciences and former dean of its medical school. "With this gift, he has challenged the UC campuses to think outside the box and to create new opportunities for students and faculty to implement innovative, practical initiatives that will improve the health of the underserved here in the United States and in developing countries."
Headquartered at UC San Francisco, the insitute has a presence on most of the UC campuses through its three multi-campus centers of expertise, which break out of traditional academic structures to create new, interdisciplinary ways of solving health problems. Focused on migration and health; animals, water, food and society; and women's health and empowerment, the centers have shared global health curricula via video conferencing and online courses, and their faculty members have contributed to UC San Francisco's one-year master's degree program in global health sciences.
The institute also supports students and trainees with fellowship and scholarship programs, including the GloCal Health Fellowship, which is funded with $4 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center. It will support 50 to 60 fellows across the UC system.
In all, the the Global Health Institute is making available $7 million to UC students, faculty and postdocs through 2017 to pursue global health research and service. Much of this funding would not have been possible without the leveraging power of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation gift.
In addition to providing funding for students and trainees, the Global Health Institute hosts the annual UC Global Health Day, which brings together faculty, students and staff to highlight the research taking place across the University of California and to provide a forum for sharing and networking. (See video about the 2013 UC Global Health Day, which was held at UC Riverside.) Through oral presentations and posters, faculty and students learn about fieldwork their peers are doing around the world and cutting-edge research being conducted on the campuses.
Initially launched in 2009 with a $4 million planning grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Health Institute also receives funding from the UC Office of the President.
"With 10 campuses combining their scientific and educational expertise and galvanizing resources around a common goal, great things can be achieved," said UC President Janet Napolitano. "The UC Global Health Institute is a terrific example of UC's potential to improve the lives of people in California and around the world."
The UC Global Health Institute advances the mission of the University of California to improve the health of all people in California and around the world. By stimulating education, research and partnerships, the institute leverages the diverse intellectual resources across the university to produce global health leaders and accelerate the discovery and implementation of transformative global health solutions.