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USC receives $50M gift to fund bioscience building

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A prominent orthopedic spinal surgeon turned philanthropist has donated $50 million to the University of Southern California to fund a bioscience center, the school announced Monday.

The donation by Dr. Gary K. Michelson, 64, will go toward building a 190,000-square-foot facility with state of the art laboratories that will include microscopy imaging machines that can take precise measurements inside cells, university officials said.

“Dr. Michelson's generous gift is truly visionary, as it will bridge USC's strengths in a broad range of disciplines, including the sciences, engineering, medicine, mathematics, and computer science,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said in a statement. “The new USC Michelson Center will be a vibrant hub for innovation, and will help create a major biomedical research corridor in Southern California.”

Michelson, who has no connection to USC, said he was sold by the center's approach, which will bring together specialists from various fields to work on specific problems.

The method “will be actually revolutionary for any university in the world,” Michelson said in a telephone interview Friday. “This is bold. It really is brave.”

The goal is to have scientists who are experts in their subspecialties “work convergently on a single medical issue to try to produce a real-world scientific breakthrough,” Michelson said.

The center will be the cornerstone of a new collaboration between the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, officials said.

Michelson, a Los Angeles resident, is a philanthropist who funds medical research.

Before retiring, he spent 25 years as a surgeon, improving surgical techniques and developing better spinal implants and surgical instruments.

In 2005, he sold ownership of many of his spine related patents to Medtronic for more than $1 billion, catapulting him onto the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans.

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