At a USC fundraising gala on Wednesday, billionaire tech tycoon Larry Ellison announced that he’s donating $200 million to help the center’s famed doctor start a brand new kind of cancer research center.
This is one of the largest donations in the university’s history, and the school says that the research center’s name will reflect that: It will be called the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC.
The new center is the brainchild of Dr. David Agus, the professor of medicine and engineering at USC and New York Times best-selling author of books like “The End of Illness” and “A Short Guide to a Long Life.” Agus already currently heads USC’s Westside Cancer Center and the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine.
But this new treatment center will be different. It will research and try new cancer treatments by blending current forms of research like proteomics (the study of proteins), molecular biology, and genetics with cutting edge engineering technology like nanotechnology (engineering and technology conducted at the nanoscale – a billionth of a meter – meaning a sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.)
- Seth Wenig / Reuters
And it will bring together experts in all sorts of other fields including physics, biology, math, engineering, and the arts. Chefs will also help the center investigate how nutrition affects cancer, Agus explained to Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram.
“We haven’t really studied how food affects the disease, what diet is the best medicine,” explains Agus. “We want to get people who do food the best to get together with the scientists.”
And the artists? Because art.
Agus told Lev-Ram that the idea came about two years ago when he was treating Steve Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. Jobs was Larry Ellison’s best friend.
Jobs turned to Agus and asked “Why can’t you debug me?” Agus recalls.
Ellison got to know Agus better when Ellison asked him to take on a relatives’ case.
Two years ago, the doctor and Ellison, the billionaire cofounder of software giant Oracle, were talking in Malibu. That’s when Agus mentioned his idea for this new cancer research/treatment facility and Ellison loved it, vowing to support it when Agus got the details sorted out and the university to back it.
The facility is expected to break ground in about six months.