UCSF Launches Landmark $5B Fundraising Campaign to Solve the Most Complex Human Health Problems

Largest-Ever University Campaign that Focuses Exclusively on Driving Innovation in Medicine

UC San Francisco on Friday launched one of the largest fundraising efforts ever set by a U.S. university, a $5 billion campaign aimed at tackling the most complex biomedical questions of our day and working more broadly to improve the quality of people’s health over their lifetimes.

Rising health care costs and the treatment of complex diseases and conditions have increased pressure on the U.S. health care system. At the same time, the country faces widening health disparities among people of different social statuses, ethnicities and genders. Additionally, the population is aging; by 2050, the number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double.

UCSF plans to solve some of the most pressing issues with innovative treatments and new discoveries developed using next-generation technologies, massive and diverse data sets, and a world-class clinical enterprise. UCSF: The Campaign will focus on three “Grand Challenges”: solving fundamental biological mysteries; accelerating the translation of discoveries to transform patient care; and working with others who share our commitment to ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to live a healthy life.

Harnessing Bay Area Innovation

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, said the boldness of these goals reflects the distinctive region in which UCSF makes its home: the highly innovative ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Area.

“UCSF is one of the world’s premier biomedical universities, and we are experiencing a dynamic convergence with Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area,” Hawgood said. “This sparks new and serendipitous combinations of brilliant scientific minds, innovative technology and our region’s pioneering spirit. The goal of the campaign is to empower us to have an exponentially greater impact – to seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve the most challenging and vexing problems in human health.”

As one of the world’s preeminent universities, we must increase our support for our students and faculty to sustain the next generation of leaders and provide them with the advanced tools and world-class facilities that will catalyze transformational advances in biomedicine.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood

“As one of the world’s preeminent universities, we must increase our support for our students and faculty to sustain the next generation of leaders and provide them with the advanced tools and world-class facilities that will catalyze transformational advances in biomedicine,” added Hawgood.

“UCSF is a national leader, and its collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit makes it uniquely suited to address the greatest challenges in health for individuals and populations,” said William E. Oberndorf, chair of the UCSF Board of Overseers and chairman of Oberndorf Enterprises.

Oberndorf and Carl M. Kawaja, a member of the UCSF Board of Overseers and a portfolio manager with Capital Group Companies Inc., are co-chairs of UCSF: The Campaign, along with Peter Carroll, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Urology, Ken and Donna Derr - Chevron Distinguished Professor in Prostate Cancer, and Taube Family Distinguished Professor in Urology; and Catherine Lucey, MD, executive vice dean and vice dean for education in the UCSF School of Medicine and The Faustino and Martha Molina Bernadett Presidential Chair in Medical Education.

Three Grand Challenges

Decoding Life to Improve Health aims to illuminate the complex biology of human beings, using discoveries made at the molecular, cellular and circuitry levels to fight or prevent diseases.

For example, UCSF researcher Wendell Lim, PhD, engineers “self-driving” cells from a person’s own immune system to kill cancer and other diseases, while UCSF scientists Susanna Rosi, PhD, and Peter Walter, PhD, are studying an experimental drug – discovered in Walter’s lab – that, when tested in mice, completely reversed severe learning and memory impairments caused by traumatic brain injury.

DeRisi is using next-generation sequencing and big data to pinpoint genomic signatures of a wide variety of pathogens, creating a single rapid test to diagnose infections.

“Thanks to unprecedented advances in technology, we are at a historic moment in our ability to understand the mysteries of life,” said renowned infectious disease researcher Joe DeRisi, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. “At UCSF, we can develop and refine answers and harness solutions that will help transform our understanding of human health and disease.”

Wendell Lim, Susanna Rosi, Joe DeRisi
From left: Wendell Lim, PhD; Susanna Rosi, PhD; and Joe DeRisi, PhD, with Jayant Rajan, MD, and Christine Sheridan, PhD student

Leveraging Discovery to Revolutionize Care will translate discoveries – moving them from basic-science labs to clinical trials and into health care settings – to provide treatments and cures faster and more effectively than ever before. UCSF will capitalize on advances in technology and partnerships with industry leaders, such as Sanofi and GE, to rapidly find solutions to vexing health issues.

For example, high-performance computing resources and more than 15 million UC Health electronic health records – representing diverse genetic, lifestyle, and environmental data – are being used to identify causes and new treatment strategies for diseases by Atul Butte, MD, PhD, inaugural director of the UCSF Institute for Computational Health Sciences and the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor. Edward Chang, MD, professor of neurological surgery and a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, is directly tapping human brain circuitry to decode the workings of the brain’s speech centers, with the hope of enabling paralyzed patients to speak using advanced brain implants.

Atul Butte and Edward Chang
From left: Atul Butte, MD, PhD; and Edward Chang, MD

Partnering to Achieve Health Equity applies the same level of scientific rigor that UCSF researchers bring to the laboratory to socially determined obstacles to health, such as poverty and discrimination. It also addresses health disparities and builds access for everyone to allow all to lead healthier lives.

For example, the San Francisco Cancer Initiative (SF CAN) seeks to level the playing field for cancer patients. It is led by world-renowned cancer biologist Alan Ashworth, PhD, president of UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior vice president of cancer services for UCSF Health. Another effort, the Child Health Equity Institute embedded in the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, will promote the well-being of all children by addressing the social and economic factors that impact health and wellness.

A heightened focus on equity in mental health care is being led in part by Matthew State, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and an effort to address the challenges of fighting chronic diseases in disadvantaged and underserved populations is being led by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and inaugural vice dean for population health and health equity at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Alan Ashworth with Pam Munster, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Dayna Long
From left: Alan Ashworth, PhD, with Pam Munster, MD; Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, and Dayna Long, MD, of the Child Health Equity Institute

Building Momentum

Since the quiet phase began on July 1, 2013, UCSF: The Campaign has raised $3 billion, including nearly $1 billion in endowed funding, making UCSF No. 1 in fundraising among public universities nationwide in 2016 and No. 5 among all U.S. universities during that period.

The campaign nucleus fund includes:

A $500 million commitment by the Helen Diller Foundation, the largest single donation in UCSF’s history. Most of the gift – $400 million – will establish endowments in Helen Diller’s name to support UCSF faculty members and students, a crucial University goal.

A $50 million gift by the late William K. Bowes Jr. to establish the Bowes Biomedical Investigator Program, which provides a five-year stream of $250,000 per year to an elite cadre of early- and mid-career faculty members.

A $185 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation and Joan and Sandy Weill to launch the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, which will develop advanced therapies for the brain and neurological diseases.

A $177 million grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies to UCSF and Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, to create the Global Brain Health Institute, with the goal of stemming the rise in dementia by connecting a new generation of leaders worldwide.

A $80 million fund – the largest endowed PhD education program for basic science in UC history – anchored with a $30 million gift from Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman and matching gifts from UCSF and 1,200 individual donors.

A $58.75 million gift from the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund will establish the UCSF Child, Teen, and Family Center, providing a powerful array of mental health services for Bay Area adults, children, and families in a new facility for research and training to advance the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

A $25 million gift from David W. Mortara to the UCSF School of Nursing to establish the Center for Physiologic Research, with the goal of reducing “alarm fatigue” in nurses and other clinicians, and improving patient care and safety.


Partnerships also have helped launch initiatives to eradicate some of the world’s most common and deadly diseases, including: 

  • A $600 million commitment from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, MD, to launch the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. Headquartered next to UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, the Biohub is an independent collaboration involving UCSF, Stanford University and UC Berkeley and was the initial investment of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which seeks to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by 2100.
  • A $250 million grant – a portion of which will benefit UCSF – from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker and The Parker Foundation to establish the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The institute unites seven top U.S. cancer centers, including UCSF, to develop immune therapies with the potential to make cancer a curable disease.

“I’m delighted to help others learn more about this incredible university, which will play a key role in transforming our understanding of health and tackling some of the world’s most complex medical questions in the years to come,” added Oberndorf, who together with his wife, Susan, made an unrestricted $25 million commitment to advance basic research in psychiatry and the behavioral sciences during the campaign’s silent phase.

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