Billionaire businessman A. Alfred Taubman has become the University of Michigan’s largest individual donor ever, with total giving of more than $142 million.
His latest gift of $56 million to the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, announced Thursday at a meeting of the University’s Board of Regents, will bring his support of innovative medical science at the University of Michigan to a total of $100 million.
The latest gift of Taubman’s $100 million pledge will be added to the endowment that funds the Taubman Institute’s efforts to find better treatments and cures for a wide variety of human diseases. In recognition of this tremendous support, the Regents today approved re-naming the Biomedical Science Research Building on the UM medical campus as the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building.
“This is one of the most transformative days in the life of the university,” said UM President Mary Sue Coleman. “Alfred Taubman instinctively sees how this level of investment can make huge advances in science and research. As a scientist, I particularly appreciate the freedom his philanthropy will provide researchers as they push the boundaries of medical science because of funding not available from other sources. The University of Michigan receives tremendous support from the NIH, National Science Foundation and other agencies. But there is truly no public agency in a position to fund the type of work that Mr. Taubman’s gift will now accelerate.”
The board of regents approved the gift and re-naming of the building at its regular meeting Thursday. Taubman attended the meeting.
“This is a very special day for me,” Taubman said. “I’m making the largest commitment I’ve ever made to any institution, but more importantly I’ve never been as excited about a donation’s potential to have an impact on the lives and well-being of people in this nation and around the world. It is my family’s honor to be a part of the UM family and to contribute to the work of so many brilliant people. Our goal is to create a legacy of excellence in medical research at the University of Michigan.”
Taubman’s gift is added to an endowment whose earnings will fund the Taubman Institute and the research of scientists named as Taubman Scholars within the institute for generations to come. These are leading UM faculty members who are both laboratory scientists and physicians with active clinical practices, which makes the Taubman Institute one of the most unusual medical research organizations in the United States.
Already these gifts have supported the work of numerous UM scientists, with the goal of turning laboratory research into clinical treatments. Through Taubman Institute support, five human clinical trials have been launched targeting cancer and ALS. The Taubman Institute is also home to the only laboratory producing embryonic stem cell lines in the state. In late March, its scientists announced the creation of its first two embryonic stem cell lines carrying the genes responsible for inherited diseases.
Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., UM’s executive vice president for medical affairs and chief executive officer of the UM Health System, praised Taubman for his vision in supporting research that will change the face of biomedical science.
“Around the world, Mr. Taubman is renowned for moving merchandise, moving money and moving markets, but here at U-M he is renowned for moving minds,” Pescovitz said. “His extraordinary generosity will make a difference in perpetuity.”
The Taubman Institute is part of the UM Medical School, one of the major components of the UM Health System.
Fifteen UM scientists already are being supported through the Taubman Institute in highly promising biomedical research focused on a range of diseases. The research funding they receive as Taubman Scholars allows them the time, freedom and resources they need to explore new frontiers of science and to conduct high-risk, high-reward research that other funding sources often do not support.
One of those scientists is the institute’s director, Eva Feldman, M.D., Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, who is leading a human clinical trial of a stem cell therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. She also is working to adapt that stem cell therapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
“Scientists like Eva need to be able to follow their scientific instincts, and I’m glad to be able to provide them with funds that give them that opportunity,” Taubman said.
Feldman said the unrestricted funding that Taubman provides scientists is priceless and gives them true freedom to follow innovative approaches to developing treatments for disease.
“What we’ve been able to achieve because of Mr. Taubman’s belief and support is remarkable,” Feldman said.
About 20 years ago, Taubman lost a good friend to ALS. And that memory has motivated him to support ALS research at the University of Michigan Medical School. But the research of the Taubman Scholars can be on any disease that affects humankind, from breast cancer and obesity to rare genetic conditions.
James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the UM Medical School and Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine, says Taubman’s support is critical to identifying fruitful lines of inquiry that can reveal what has not been understood before.
“This additional funding provided to Taubman physician-scientists enables them to pursue creative, high-risk and potentially high return avenues of inquiry that might otherwise go unfunded by traditional government sources,” says Woolliscroft. “Mr. Taubman’s gift illustrates the power of philanthropy to support research that can address enormous deficits in our understanding of medical science and human health.”
Taubman’s major gifts include:
* $56 million announced Thursday as the latest portion of a $100 million pledge to the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the Medical School.
* $22 million given in 2008, also for the Taubman Institute
* $22 million given in 2007, to initially endow the Taubman Institute and support research including that of Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., who is studying stem cells and other approaches to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
* $30 million for the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, given in 1999, to create an endowment that supports student scholarships and faculty appointments. The college was named in his honor in 1999.
* $4 million, committed in 2006, to the UM Museum of Art, toward the museum’s $35.4 million facility expansion and restoration project. The museum’s striking new space for temporary exhibits is called the Taubman Galleries.
* $3 million, given in the early 1980s, toward the building of University Hospital and the A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center, which is a four-story facility for general and specialty outpatient care services.
His other gifts to the University have supported the Taubman Medical Library, the Alfred Taubman Scholarship in the Office of Financial Aid, and the Taubman Program in American Institutions in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
For more information about the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School, visit www.taubmaninstitute.org