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Cogent founder Ming Hsieh donates $50 million to USC

Cogent Founder Ming Hsieh Donates $50 Million to USC
USC trustee Ming Hsieh, the founder of Cogent Inc.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias announced the university has made a bold advance in cancer research thanks to a gift of $50 million from USC trustee Ming Hsieh MS ’84.

The funds will create a permanent endowment to support research and development in the burgeoning field of nanomedicine for cancer. The university will create the USC Ming Hsieh Institute for Research on Engineering-Medicine for Cancer in recognition of his generous support and years of service to the university.

Hsieh was born and raised in northern China and worked his way to USC, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1983 and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1984. In 1987, he founded AMAX Technology and in 1990 founded the Pasadena-based Cogent Inc., which revolutionized automated fingerprint identification.

“With this extraordinary gift, Ming Hsieh joins USC as a partner in the fight against cancer,” Nikias said, “and we are extremely grateful and touched by his generosity. What is exciting about the USC Ming Hsieh Institute is that it bridges our two campuses. This kind of creative collaboration is our best hope for dealing with this devastating disease. On a personal level, I am deeply moved that Ming Hsieh chose to make this visionary gift commitment on the day of my inauguration.”

Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said: “Ming’s naming of the department of electrical engineering in 2006 is a landmark in the history of the school.

“The new institute,” he added, “is another testament to his vision. Gifted engineering faculty and students working on nanotechnology will utilize their remarkable talent and expertise to attack cancer and hopefully lead to effective cures. Working with our colleagues at the Keck School of Medicine and elsewhere at USC, we are positioned with this transformative gift to become world leaders in the field.”

Keck School of Medicine of USC Dean Carmen A. Puliafito noted that the donation will help Keck and other USC researchers in their quest to translate cancer discoveries into effective therapies for patients.

“The fight against cancer has gained a powerful ally in Ming Hsieh,” said Puliafito. “This gift illustrates the critical synergy of healthcare and technology that has the potential to dramatically change the lives of cancer patients. We are grateful for his visionary gift.”

In 2006, Hsieh donated $35 million to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to endow the USC Department of Electrical Engineering, which was named in his honor. At the time, it was the largest gift ever for an engineering department.

“In the past five years, Ming Hsieh has donated $85 million to USC’s endowment to advance two strategic initiatives,” Nikias said. “He is not only a generous philanthropist, but a visionary one, investing in USC programs that he believes will have long-term benefit not only to USC, but to mankind.”

In his inauguration address to members of the USC community, Nikias was planning to highlight USC’s strengths as an entrepreneurial, innovative and collaborative environment. He noted that the great challenges of our time do not always fit within the boundaries of academic departments, but often call for several disciplines or schools to work together. He said this would be especially true for addressing the most complex global health challenges of the 21st century and outlined the important role USC’s academic medical center will play in USC’s future.

Nanotechnology is creating a new frontier in cancer research. The USC Ming Hsieh Institute will fuel and expand the groundbreaking basic and translational research taking place across many academic disciplines on the USC University Park and USC Health Sciences campuses. The objective is to get the best minds from many fields working together to create breakthrough solutions and get them to the cancer patients as quickly as possible.

“Recent advances in nanomedicine are creating an exciting new era for cancer research,” Hsieh said. “Bridging the gap between the laboratory and patient care is the challenge today. USC has world-class engineers, scientists and physicians who know how to work together to make real progress. It’s my hope that their efforts will lead to better survival rates, longer remissions, new treatments and cures for this horrible disease that leaves an indelible mark on so many.”

He added, “I know that the strengths of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in nanotechnology, combined with the outstanding faculty in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, will be able to achieve remarkable results.”

The institute will conduct research on nanoscale delivery platforms for drugs and therapeutics targeting cancerous cells and tumors. Researchers will work on encapsulating nanoparticles and other promising applications of nanotechnology. They also will seek to create advances in biomedical imaging to help determine the delivery and targeting efficiencies of these treatments and therapies.

At the same time, clinical research will be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the resulting drug delivery on actual cancer patients. The goal is to take what is learned in the laboratory and apply it at the bedside and also to take what is learned at the bedside to inspire further study in the laboratory.

The institute will bridge research from engineering and medicine. The recently launched program HTE@USC (Health, Technology and Engineering at USC) between USC Viterbi and the Keck School already has laid a strong foundation for such collaborations and will be leveraged to augment educational and training opportunities for medical and doctoral students who participate in the institute’s research.

“Ming Hsieh is an exemplary trustee and alumnus,” said Edward P. Roski Jr., chairman of the USC Board of Trustees. “His generous gifts continue to advance the university and improve the lives of people in our community, nation and world. All of us in the Trojan Family are very proud of him. He is the embodiment of the American dream and a role model for domestic and international students alike.”

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