Discovery Fellows Program Meets Fundraising Challenge

Strong Show of Support for Basic Science Education and Research

Members of the inaugural class of Discovery Fellows pose for a photo with Harriet Heyman. Photo by Elisabeth Fall

A year ahead of schedule, UC San Francisco has met the unprecedented fundraising challenge set by Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman to raise $5 million from 500 donors for the Discovery Fellows Program, which supports basic science PhD education.

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Join the hundreds who've already donated to UCSF's education in basic science, and your gift will be matched by Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman.

Moritz and Heyman responded to the news that their challenge had been met by extending the fundraising effort through 2016 with up to $5 million more in matching funds, and by committing a $1 million bonus if the new campaign attracts another 500 donors.

“Strength and purpose depend on communities deciding to attack the future with gusto,” said Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park. “This has happened in a spectacular manner at UCSF during the last year, and we hope that even more people now have a great, additional incentive to help our university attract medical science's most talented graduate students.”

Largest Endowed PhD Program in UC History

At $60 million, the Discovery Fellows Program is already the largest endowed PhD education program in the history of the University of California system. The couple launched it last year with a $30 million gift, which was matched by UCSF and hundreds of individuals, most of whom gave to the University for the first time.

Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman
Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman. Photo by Cindy Chew

The fund recognizes the critical role doctoral students play in fueling biomedical research. As the endowment grows, it will increasingly take the financial pressure off faculty to fund education with research money and give students freedom to choose their mentors based on scientific rather than financial concerns.

“This endowment will support basic science at UCSF for generations to come,” said Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs. “It goes to the very heart of what UCSF is all about: creating the conditions for scientists to do great work.”

A spate of generous donations from UCSF friends and alumni helped propel the campaign to success. Among the donors who made leadership gifts to establish named fellowships are the philanthropist Hwalin Lee, PhD, class of ’66; former UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and her husband Nicholas Hellmann, MD; retired Impax Laboratories, Inc., chief Larry Hsu, PhD; and Pablo Valenzuela, PhD, cofounder of Chiron Corp., and his wife Bernadita Valenzuela, PhD.

Lee, who received his doctorate from UCSF, said he gave to express his appreciation for his alma mater. “I think this is a very good opportunity to do something for the school,” he said.

Hsu, who received his doctorate from the University of Michigan, gave in the name of his friend and colleague, Leslie Z. Benet, PhD, a professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy, whose counsel as a member of Impax’s board of directors helped his company become a success.

“He’s someone I look up to and someone I admire,” said Hsu. “I am very grateful for his guidance.”

Valenzuela also said that work done by basic scientists at UCSF had proved pivotal to his success in biotechnology.

"I am a great advocate of basic research," he said. “Supporting the Discovery Fellows Program is very attractive to me as a simple and direct way of encouraging the work of first-class scientists and their graduate students."

Basic Research is Foundation for Patient Care

A big reason the campaign was so successful was the unexpected bounty of $1.7 million in departmental commitments by the chairs of all 20 clinical departments in the School of Medicine. Peter Carroll, MD, MPH, the chair of Urology, led the drive and said the uniform support among clinical chairs shows just how invested they are in basic science.

Elizabeth Watkins, Harriett Heyman, Sam Hawgood, B. Joseph Guglielmo
At a March reception honoring donors to the Discovery Fellows Program, from left to right: Elizabeth Watkins, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs; philanthropist Harriet Heyman; Chancellor Sam Hawgood; and B. Joseph Guglielmo, dean of the School of Pharmacy. Photo by Elisabeth Fall

“A very large percentage of the basic research on this campus is done by members of the clinical departments,” Carroll said. “We understand the importance of basic research, as it is the foundation for advances in the care of patients.”

The Discovery Fellows campaign appears to be unique in the world of higher education fundraising, where basic science programs, if they have received private funding at all, have done so through broader campaigns that include schools like law and engineering.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, said he hopes the drive will instill the habit of giving toward education into the broader UCSF community.

The next phase of the campaign has been designed to inspire donors to think about making larger, multi-year commitments. For example, donors who commit to gifts of $10,000 or more over a three to five year period will receive a two-to-one match.

“For some people, it will probably be the first time they’ve given,” Hawgood said. “We hope they will see the impact of their philanthropy leveraged and be inspired to keep supporting our talented community of students, who will be tomorrow’s scientific leaders.”