Li Ka Shing Gift Supports UCSF Quest for Precision Medicine

By Kristen Bole

At UCSF Mission Bay, are from left, Eric Chow, Li Ka Shing Foundation; Leilynne Fong, Senior Director of Development at UCSF; Julia Hsiao, Li Ka Shing Foundation; Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, UCSF; UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann; Solina Chau, director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation and Regis Kelly, director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences.
Founder of the Li Ka Shing Foundation, The Honorable Li Ka-shing

Founder of the Li Ka Shing Foundation, The Honorable Li Ka-shing

The Li Ka Shing Foundation has pledged $2 million to support UC San Francisco’s efforts to advance precision medicine, an emerging field aimed at revolutionizing medical research and patient care.

The support – which will be used to build a worldwide network of clinicians and researchers, launch leadership exchanges between UCSF and China, and create a systems-pharmacology program to develop more precise medications – will serve as a cornerstone for UCSF’s work to lay the infrastructure for the field.

The concept of precision medicine, which emerged from a 2010 National Academy of Sciences report co-authored by UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and Charles Sawyers, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, is to transform medical care worldwide by integrating the wealth of data emerging from both the human genome and research on the molecular basis of disease, with information from patients’ health records and environmental data.

Collectively, this information will inform laboratory research and patient care, leading to new ways to precisely diagnose a patient’s condition based on his or her own genetics and background, and to develop customized therapies that are more effective, with fewer side effects. Each patient’s response to those therapies would further inform the science, creating a virtual loop that continuously builds our understanding of health and disease.

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Precision medicine has become a driving vision for UCSF, the nation’s largest and most renowned university focused exclusively on health sciences.

“Our goal is to give every patient access to precise, predictive and personalized care, anywhere in the world,” Desmond-Hellmann said. “Today, there are glimpses of the potential, as seen in targeted treatments for breast cancer, but we don’t have such targeted therapies for most diseases, including diabetes, and patients suffer as a result.

“We are very grateful to the Li Ka Shing Foundation for providing critical support in launching this initiative to make Precision Medicine a reality,” she said. “This partnership is the cornerstone on which the next century of medicine will be built.”

This is the first grant UCSF has received from the Hong Kong-based charitable foundation, which has contributed nearly $1 billion to education, health care and cultural causes since it was founded in 1980 by the Honorable Li Ka-shing, GBM, KBE, JP.

The grant creates a pioneering new partnership between the Foundation, UCSF, and Shantou University, a university in Southeast China’s Guangdong Province that is supported by the Foundation and is building an advanced curriculum focused on the life sciences.

“As institutions, we share an abiding commitment to using innovation to improve the welfare of people throughout the world,” said Solina Chau, director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation. “Precision medicine reflects this shared mission by combining innovative tools and targeted therapies to produce highly personalized patient care.”

The partnership will initially focus on three core activities:

Bruce Miller, MD, professor of neurology and William Seeley, MD, associate profeBruce Miller, MD, professor of neurology, and Bill Seeley, MD, associate professor of neurology, have launched one of UCSF's first projects in precision medicine, applying it to various forms of dementia.
  • Creation of a worldwide Biomedical Knowledge Network that will use technology to connect established clinical‐pathological indexes with molecular profiling of diseases, allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated in a more personal, precise way than ever before;
  • International Leadership Exchanges and Symposia involving renowned scientific, medical, and educational experts from Shantou University, UCSF, and other institutions across the world; and
  • Development of a Systems Pharmacology Program combining the best of modern molecular technology with the traditional, hypothesis-driven scientific research approaches that have proven successful in earlier eras.

These initial programs will help to create a foundation for precision medicine, providing a critical springboard from which many additional precision medicine objectives will be achieved.

This video was produced to show how UCSF is leading revolutions in health, including driving the field of precision medicine, to friends and supporters in China.

Photo of UCSF scientists by Susan Merrell