...Changing The World

C.L. Max Nikias, Gary K. Michelson, Raymond C. Stevens, David Cohen; USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote [MMRF] [2014-10-23]

USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote

Context

USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote addressed on Thursday, October 23rd 2014

The USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote, first part of the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience groundbreaking ceremony, will be hosted by University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias, at the University of Southern California.

The USC Michelson groundbreaking ceremony, comprised of a 11AM kickoff keynote and a 12PM luncheon at USC Viterbi, will be held on Thursday, October 23rd 2014. The Center is expected to open in early 2018.

Transcript

Announcer: We’ll start in just a few moments. If I could ask you all to move inside, take some seats out of the sun. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the president of the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias.

C.L. Max Nikias: Good morning, everyone. Good morning, good morning. I said to Dr. Michelson earlier, we’re here today to break ground for the largest building we’re gonna build on this campus, excluding the University Village.

So I’m delighted to welcome you to this historic dedication ceremony. But before I begin I would like to make some special introductions, and I would like to begin with our first lady, my wife, Niki.

Also I would like to introduce, Mrs. Alya Michelson. She’s here with us.

The next group I would like to introduce is our trustees, so please stand as I announce your name and remain standing so we can recognize you as a group. And please hold your applause. Verna Dauterive is here with us, Carol Fox, Bob Padgett, Lorna Reed, and Frank Cruz. Ladies and gentlemen, our trustees.

Amy Ross is here, the President of the USC Alumni Board of Governors.

The next group I would like to introduce is our senior administrators, and again please stand as I announce your name and remain standing so we can recognize you as a group. Elizabeth Garrett, the Provost and President Elect of Cornell University. She deserves a round of applause.

Thank you. Al Checchio, our Senior Vice President for University Advancement. Ah, ah, ah, hold your applause. We only do it for Beth.

Bob Abeles, our Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer. Carol Mauch Amir, the General Council and Secretary of the University. Tom Sayles, our Senior Vice President for University Relations. I would also like to introduce Michael Quick, our Executive Vice Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Where is Michael? Right there. And also I would like to introduce, because this is important for this project, Lloyd Silberstein. Where is Lloyd? There he is, our Vice President for Capital Construction. Ladies and gentlemen, our senior officers.

We have with us today L.A. County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas. Where’s Mark? He’s in the back. California Senate President pro tempore, Kevin DeLeon is here with us. Thank you.

Thank you. We’re proud of you, proud of you, Kevin, thank you. And Dean Florez, the retired State Senator and President, and CEO of the 20 Million Minds Foundation. I know Dean is here. There he is.

I would like to introduce our two deans who are here with us: Steve Kay, our Dean of the Dornsife College, and Yannis Yortsos, our Dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering.

So today we breathe life into an extraordinary place that will bear an extraordinary name dedicated to improving the lives of others. As we break ground on the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, we embrace the commitment of a man whose spirit of benevolence and determination inspires our own, Dr. Gary Michelson. In doing so we embrace a new approach to science and medicine that Gary champions, one that recognizes how evolving disciplines shape our pursuit of concrete solutions.

As many of you know, thanks to advances in electronics, medicine, biology and engineering, we are poised for major breakthroughs in the 21st century. But science and engineering and medicine cannot be islands of research for the sake of research only. Rather, they must build off each other’s revelations and revolutions. The greatest advances in human history occur not merely when the sciences collaborate, but when they converge on a particular problem with strategic purpose. In this world class building, close to 30 world class interdisciplinary teams from the USC Dornsife College and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering will unite in common causes.

Today these unique explorers are exploiting advances in genomics and technology to deepen our understanding of living systems. When brought together at the Michelson Center, these scientists and engineers will translate their research into real world devices and compounds to treat disease and improve the human condition as never before. We have already begun to find a home at the center for such researchers, including scientist, Dr. Steve Kay, a world expert on genes and circadian rhythms.

Dr. Raymond Stevens, a renowned biochemist, specializing in the structure of proteins. And his former colleague at the Scripps Research Institute, Dr. Peter Kuhn, a prominent cell biologist. And Dr. Scott Fraser, a leading pioneer in quantitative biology and engineering. And these newly hired transformative scientists brought their entire teams with them. Just as Gary has made a tremendous investment in this novel enterprise, so too our university made an investment in, and commitment to, the center’s top talent.

At USC Michelson, they will work at the heart of a major biomedical research corridor in Los Angeles, whose arteries will nourish progress throughout the region and the world. And this center will embody the dynamics that have defined Gary’s many achievements – disrupting convention with quiet resolve and fueling innovation with material impact. And as a result creating new business startups and products that will extend and improve quality of life.

Gary’s journey to redefining medicine began more than five decades ago. He and his three brothers were raised by his mother and grandmother.

Gary’s grandmother suffered from a crippling spinal disease that impaired her walking, caused relentless low back pain, and left her unable to feel sensation in her hands. One day, Gary’s grandmother was cooking in the kitchen and severely burned her hand. But her spinal condition left her oblivious to her worsening injury and Gary immediately jumped in to assist her. A memory that was permanently etched into his mind. His grandmother then said to him, “Oh, you will be a back doctor, so you will fix me” and that call to action would direct his life’s career and work.

An eventful act of loving kindness, a grandmother preparing food for her grandson, spurred a living commitment to improve the health and well-being of her and many others. Gary put himself through college at Temple University and later attended medical school at Hahnemann Medical College. It was there that one of his professors told him not to specialize in back surgery, warning him that back patients don’t get better.

Up to that time spinal surgery was highly invasive, with tools and techniques consigning patients to a lifetime of chronic pain, disability, or impairment. Gary, however, could not accept such a plight. He recognized that minimally invasive surgeries were central to improving patient outcomes. After completing a fellowship in spinal surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Texas he returned to L.A. filled with ideas and started his own spinal surgery practice.

He began to develop new devices and techniques that were less invasive and expensive. And that turned those difficult surgeries into safer outpatient procedures. Over the years Gary has developed hundreds of instruments, implants, and methods that have revolutionized spinal surgery. Today he has more than 900 patents to his name, or pending worldwide. As a sole author, he has more patents than Thomas Edison. And these patents form the core of a life-changing industry that helps more than 700,000 American patients every year.

Although he has retired from practicing medicine, Gary will never retire from helping others in need. With his wife Alya, his philanthropic foundations support medical research, education, and animal welfare. Gary’s foundation, 20 Million Minds Foundation, headed by former State Senate Majority Leader, Dean Florez, is also in partnership with our university to expand education opportunities for Californians. Through the Michelson Medical Research Foundation, USC has a partner in transformative research at the intersection of engineering and biology. And in Gary, we have an insightful colleague who will advise the center’s researchers at the crossroads of the theoretical and the transformational and the technology transfer.

One of the most heartening elements of Gary Michelson’s generosity is that until he decided to make his visionary gift, he had no ties to our university, and yet the timeliness mission of our noble university resonates with admirers and supporters from all walks of life. Just as we seek to inspire and improve lives from all corner of the globe. Even so we have all been moved by how quickly Gary Michelson has become a Trojan, an invaluable member of the Trojan family.

Trojans know full well that a life devoted to service and leadership is a life, a life worth living. And without fear or falter, Gary has dedicated his life to promoting life. His decades of invention and innovation define a man whose singular drive is matched by striking humility. Despite having developed hundreds and hundreds of innovations to improve spinal surgery, Gary Michelson has never named one of them after himself. He has noted that if you want to own it like that, then it’s going to own you.

Nobody needs to have their name up in lights and there is no forever – but Gary, at USC there is forever. There is something in perpetuity. In breaking ground on this magnificent and magnanimous building, we forever link your name with this university. In fostering the discoveries and advances that will emerge here, we forever tie your legacy to the countless lives of those who will benefit from this center’s future breakthroughs. And through your support, you have created a lasting tribute to a beloved grandmother’s enduring faith in her eternally devoted grandson. And for all this, our entire Trojan family is forever grateful. Thank you, Gary. Thank you.

Gary K. Michelson: Let me thank Max for so many kind words. I’m concerned he might work with the NSA. He knows more about me than I know.

Thank you. So to begin with, if you all look back there, I’m going to apologize to all the people that are standing and make you a promise. When we do the next building, there will be more chairs.

So it’s a hot summer’s day and you’re out there in the backyard and you’re barbecuing for the friends and family, the sun is baking you, and you go, “Wow, it would sure be nice to have a big old shade tree back here.” Well the best time to have planted that tree was 50 years ago, but the next best time is right now.

The State of California has seen fit to subsidize clean air, electric cars, and by the way, my friend Elon (Musk) said, “Hi” and “Thank you very much.” They have also invested about $100 billion dollars, or will, in building us a nice train that will go through the Central Valley that we all like, and I think these are worthy projects, all. And our city, for it’s part, has invested in and subsidized mega billion dollar corporations so that they could build skyscraper hotels, convention centers, entertainment complexes, sports arenas, and again, these are worthy projects all, I’m sure.

But none of these projects will ever save a single human life or aid suffering from illness. We have to get our government, on behalf of us collectively to act, to invest – catalytically, in building out the infrastructure for a vast medical research ecosystem that would be nucleated around the vision of this man and this university, and the commitment to medical research. Now it will help the world, but that’s not why they should do it. They should do it because USC is busy right now turning out the next generation of entrepreneurs. We are rich in scientists.

L.A. and California has the venture capitalists who are looking to build out the next Amgen or Genentech. And if the government commits to building out this infrastructure, they will come. It’s Field of Dreams. They will come, and we will reach a critical mass where they’re coming on their own because L.A. will be the place where the action is to do medical research. Los Angeles should become to medical research what Silicon Valley is to information technology. We owe it to the world. We owe it to L.A. We need to invest in this. On behalf of my lovely wife Alya, and no, she’s not a professional model, that really is my wife sitting there. Stand up. Let them see who you are, come on. Come on.

Alya and myself, we want to thank Max who I think has extraordinary vision and commitment. The university and all of you people who’ve been kind enough to come here today to add to the great joy of this for us, for allowing us to be a part of this grand adventure. Thank you very much.

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Provost Professor of biological sciences, chemistry, neurology, physiology, biophysics for the USC Dornsife College of Letters Arts and Sciences, Raymond Stevens.

Raymond Stevens: I have no idea where that came from.

In 1497 Leonardo da Vinci drew The Vitruvian Man, a detailed proportional human drawing of two superimposed positions inscribed in a circle. Over the next ten years, he drew a set of beautiful anatomical drawings that equal many of the imaging methods today. Since that time more than 500 years ago, scientists and engineers have further defined the human body by diverging research into hundreds of sub-disciplines of medicine, chemistry, engineering, physics, biology. Today we begin the convergent path to bring science, medicine, and engineering together, and see and understand the human body at the atomic resolution scale.

One of our goals is to return the medical school phrase, “Treat the patient, not the disease” – where we focus on the entire body, not just one aspect of the body. It’s now widely accepted that one disease can have a pronounced effect on other diseases or other parts of the body of process. Genomics has taught us about the list of parts that we have that make up who we are. It’s important to understand the complete human genome, every aspect. Only by studying the body as a whole can we really understand who we are as people, and this needs to be done at the molecular, the protein, the cellular, the organ, the entire human body scale.

Today we get to celebrate the convergence of studying the human body between Dornsife College and Viterbi School of Engineering. Together with other schools of the university, including the Keck School of Medicine and the School of Cinematic Arts. And when we finish the fundraising and building construction, all of these groups located in the Michelson Center will make a tremendous impact on our understanding of the human body and translational research. In regards to translational research, I’m very pleased to be able to announce today, and will be announced formally next week, the formation of a USC industry academia consortium. Which will bring USC researchers together with eight pharmaceutical companies into Los Angeles, to USC, and this will have a very big impact, catalyzing a new frontier and opportunity for the USC community.

Dr. Michelson, you’re a pioneer and a trailblazer in the area of spinal surgery. Today on behalf of my colleagues at the university, I thank you for trailblazing convergence, the convergence of scientific research and discovery that can help mankind. And I promise you, that by creating the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and having the right combination of scientists and engineers, without silos, without barriers, we will make one of the biggest impacts – on translational research, efficiency, as well as understanding the human body since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, 500 years ago. Thank you.

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome David A. Cohen, co-founder of Karlin Real Estate and President of Karlin Asset Management.

David A. Cohen: Thank you. What a great day. Before I start I wanna just thank Max. Thank you very much and professor Stevens for their gracious remarks on what the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience means to the university and to the academic community. I’ve known Gary for 15 years now and worked closely with him as his business manager for the last 10 years. During this time I’ve watched him redirect his tremendously creative and inventive mind towards philanthropy.

I’d like to take a few moments to share with you what drives this uniquely gifted individual. At the heart of all of Gary’s endeavors lies really I think one word, and that is compassion. His desire, and the word was used earlier, but his desire to bring catalytic change, and improve the world, motivates him every single day. And his lovely wife Alya, who is an accomplished journalist, musician, and artist. We all clapped for her before, but Alya.

She is his partner and shares his intense passion for leaving the world a better place for the broader community. His support for this center also reveals his bold, what a bold and decisive visionary he is. I first heard of the USC’s idea for such a center and was inspired to invite Gary to join me to learn about it firsthand. In our initial meeting with Steve Kay, Professor Fraser and Michael Quick, here in the front, started to discuss science and really focused on some of the obstacles to bringing important science to patient care. And there’s a big gap between what happens in the research lab and what eventually finds its way to benefit patients.

So the meeting was just getting its own cadence and, after 10 or 15 minutes, Gary requested a break to confer with me privately in the next room. So we left the room, much to their surprise I might add.

And, literally two minutes later, we walked back in the room, Scott (Fraser) is smiling cause he remembers this and Steve (Kay) as well. Gary apologized for the break and, then casually said as if he was asking someone to please pass the ketchup and just said, “Yeah, I’m good, I’m supporting, I’m supporting it. I’m good for that.” And then quickly switched the conversation back to translational medicine and translational research.

Well, as you can imagine, it took a couple minutes for these three gentlemen, these three academics, to grasp just how quickly Gary had made his commitment. Now I’m short-circuiting this here but really, that was of course after we resuscitated them.

Now I know USC is tremendously accomplished on many different levels. For instance, this university has produced more Olympic athletes than any other school in the nation. But I have to wonder at 17 minutes total elapsed time in the category of fastest major gift, I suspect Gary Michelson may have set another record.

Max quoted earlier appropriately Thomas Edison and, uh, it is true that Gary has more patents than Thomas Edison according to the U.S. Patent Office, which is just remarkable. Thomas Edison once said that vision without execution is really hallucination. While some may be humbled by overwhelming aspirations, Gary always merges foresight with implementation. So these are the qualities that drive my friend Gary Michelson: extraordinary compassion, boldness, vision, and the ability to execute. These traits have brought us to this pivotal moment for science and medicine at USC and the promise of a better future for generations to come. Thank you very much.

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back president C.L. Max Nikias.

C.L. Max Nikias: Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, joins us right here in the front. You have already been introduced. [Laughs] Thank you. Thank you for coming, Mark and, I should tell everybody the Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been a very strong advocate for the growth of biomedical technology startups in the L.A. County.

Gary, before we do the business of the groundbreaking here we have some presents for you, some gifts. And, the first one, ladies, do you wanna bring it up here? You can see it’s something that you can have on your walls with Alya and it’s a beautiful rendering of the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. It’s just beautiful.

Press Excerpt

Officials break ground on USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience

USC officially opened construction on the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience — soon to be the largest building on campus and perhaps the catalyst for a biomedical research corridor in Los Angeles.

The center was made possible by a $50 million gift from philanthropist and retired orthopaedic spinal surgeon Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. It will add 190,000 square feet of laboratories and offices for key researchers to the southwest quadrant of the University Park Campus. There, engineers and scientists will work together to tackle grand challenges in health and related fields.

“The greatest advances in human history occur not merely when the sciences collaborate, but when they converge on a particular problem with strategy and purpose,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias told the standing-room only crowd.

Collaboration to come in shared spaces

Once it’s completed in 2017, the center will house about 25 to 30 investigators working in shared lab spaces that encourage collaboration.

Michelson underscored the importance of building momentum behind discoveries in engineering and the life sciences. Los Angeles is creating much-needed transportation and other infrastructure for its people, but Michelson called on the region to also focus on investment that could ease suffering and save lives.

“We have to get our government, on behalf of us collectively, to act — to invest catalytically in building out the infrastructure for a vast, medical research ecosystem that would be nucleated around the vision of this man,” Michelson said, indicating Nikias, “and this university and a commitment to medical research.”

Noting that USC is an engine for entrepreneurs, Michelson predicted Los Angeles will be the next hotbed for biomedical ventures. USC has long advocated creating biomedical research clusters that would foster new businesses and boost the economy.

“Los Angeles should become to medical research what Silicon Valley is to information technology. We owe it to the world. We owe it to LA. We need to invest in this,” he said.

Michelson, whose own innovative work generated more patents as a sole author than Thomas Edison, has initiated life-changing research as an inventor, surgeon and philanthropist.

The center that bears his name lays the foundation for a new collaboration between the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Appropriately, it will be nestled between facilities for both schools — just west of the Dornsife Neuroscience Pavilion and north of the Olin Hall of Engineering.

Michelson’s transformative gift, announced in January, pushed USC past the halfway mark in its campaign to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance the university’s mission of academic excellence and to advance research and scholarship that will address society’s most pressing challenges. As of the groundbreaking, the Campaign for the University of Southern California has raised $3.71 billion in more than three years.

USC recruits two renowned researchers

USC also announced the appointment of several recently recruited researchers who will work in the new facility, including Raymond C. Stevens, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry, and Peter Kuhn, Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences.

Stevens is a pioneer in high-throughput structural biology, combining big-data computing with classical research techniques to explore the origins of cellular behavior. Kuhn, co-leader of the NIH-funded Southern California Physics Oncology Center at USC, is the inventor of a method for detecting cancer cells through a minimally invasive and inexpensive blood test.

“Having the right combinations of scientists and engineers — without silos, without barriers — we will make one of the biggest impacts on translational research efficiency as well as understanding the human body since the time of Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago,” Stevens said, describing scientific forays since the famous polymath’s time as divergent and ever more specialized — something the USC Michelson Center is being built to overcome.

Together, Stevens and Kuhn will bring a cohort of about 50 researchers to the university. Also slated to lead efforts at the new facility are Steve Kay, dean of USC Dornsife, and Scott Fraser, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering with joint appointments at USC Dornsife, USC Viterbi and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Kay said he’ll be honored to set up his lab in the building, noting he is “excited for my team to begin collaborating so closely with engineers to devise innovative diagnostic devices and treatments for diseases we now consider incurable.”

The center will house flexible labs, the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis, a nanofabrication facility and a suite of microscopy imaging technology. Equipped with the latest and best tools, researchers will attempt to fast-track the detection and curing of diseases.

“USC Michelson will be a world-class center of the accelerating convergence between the biosciences and engineering,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi. “Its outstanding faculty will conduct cutting-edge bioscience and bio-engineering research that will lead to breakthrough innovations for advancing human health.”

Source
USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote; Groundbreaking Ceremony 1st Half - Gary K. Michelson addresses the audience (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#3764}
Gary K. Michelson addresses the audience with a passionate speech dedicated toward the creation of a vast medical research ecosystem located in the L.A. basin; USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#3764}

USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote;  Groundbreaking Ceremony 1st Half - Raymond C. Stevens (left), David Cohen, Gary K. Michelson, C.L. Nikias (right) (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#3826}
The third speaker of the USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote, Raymond C. Stevens, formerly from the SCRIPPS Institute, advocates the understanding of the complete human genome and the study of the human body “at the molecular, the protein, the cellular, the organ, the entire human body scale.” Seated next to Raymond C. Stevens are David Cohen, Gary K. Michelson, C.L. Max Nikias; USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#3826}

USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote during the USC Michelson kickoff luncheon; Groundbreaking Ceremony 1st Half - Gary K. Michelson (left) with USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#4497}
Gary K. Michelson (left) with USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos during the USC Michelson kickoff luncheon which took place at the Viterbi School of Engineering following the keynote; USC Michelson Center Kickoff Keynote (Credit: Steve Cohn) {#4497}

Quotes
Gary K. Michelson

Los Angeles should become to medical research what Silicon Valley is to information technology. We owe it to the world. We owe it to L.A. We need to invest in this.

C.L. Max Nikias

The greatest advances in human history occur not merely when the sciences collaborate, but when they converge on a particular problem with strategic purpose. In this world class building, close to 30 world class interdisciplinary teams from the USC Dornsife College and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering will unite in common causes.

Raymond C. Stevens

Today we begin the convergent path to bring science, medicine, and engineering together, and see and understand the human body at the atomic resolution scale.

David A. Cohen

While some may be humbled by overwhelming aspirations, Gary always merges foresight with implementation.

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