About Our Founder
Gary K. Michelson is a former orthopedic surgeon and inventor whose innovations have revolutionized spinal surgery. With hundreds of issued or pending patent applications, his decades of work in this field have advanced the treatment of spinal disorders and helped thousands of people worldwide.
Gary Michelson’s passion for helping people with spinal disorders started in his childhood when he witnessed his grandmother suffer from syringomyelia, a debilitating spinal disease that causes extreme back pain as well as insensitivity to temperature in the hands and feet. One day as he sat in his grandmother’s kitchen watching her cook, he was horrified to observe her unconsciously place her hand on a burner, flames licking her flesh. She felt nothing, but reassured him, “One day, you’ll become a doctor, and you’ll fix me.”(1)
Driven by the power of this unforgettable moment, Gary left home at the age of seventeen determined to become a doctor. He put himself through medical school by working odd jobs: washing cars, driving a cab, and even cleaning cages at a research facility.(2)
Gary Michelson was still in medical school when he devised his first invention. He was treating a 10-year-old girl who was facing a leg amputation. Instead of amputating, Gary was able to save her leg by transplanting a rib bone.(3)
His grandmother never far from his mind, Gary Michelson continued his medical training, and eventually decided to specialize in spinal surgery. An extremely harsh discipline due to its low rate of success, Gary took on the challenge and began a parallel career as an inventor. He would spend his days in surgery at the hospital, and his nights working in his garage on inventions that would improve patient outcomes.(4)
As he became more successful, he was able to hire fabricators to construct his devices, even having an entire machine shop dedicated to the creation and testing of his ideas. His passion for helping patients and his pursuit of improved surgical techniques over the next twenty years led him to become the most prolific inventor in medical history, with a staggering 340 United States patents, and over 953 issued or pending applications throughout the world.(5) His achievements in inventing also made him a millionaire, until he successfully defended himself against a lawsuit brought by mega-company, Medtronic, over a licensing dispute. The resulting settlement in 2004 catapulted Dr. Gary Michelson into the realm of billionaire and allowed him to begin the next phase of his life as a philanthropist.(6)
To make education more accessible, Gary Michelson set up the non-profit, Twenty Million Minds Foundation (20MM). Its initiatives include the creation of digital, interactive, college textbooks (resulting in significant savings to college students), and a program that provides remedial education to prison inmates, thereby increasing their ability to function in society once released and reducing their risk of recidivism.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Gary Michelson has a passion for intellectual property and is a recognized expert who regularly speaks and writes on the subject. He is the publisher and contributing author to Intangible Advantage, a free e-book dubbed the “first intellectual property book for everyday people.” He also endeavors to help the next generation of inventors by granting free, online access to books, videos, and other resources on patents, copyrights, trademarks and more.
Gary Michelson also supports scientific innovators through the Michelson Medical Research Foundation with over $100 million dollars in donations going towards a range of research, from the treatment of spinal injuries to the development of vaccines for infectious diseases. Based on a belief that collaboration between engineers, scientists, and physicians will result in better solutions for patients, the Michelson Medical Research Foundation recently donated $50 million dollars to the University of Southern California to fund the upcoming USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.(7)
An animal lover since childhood, Gary Michelson’s compassion for the suffering of homeless pets led him to establish the Michelson Found Animals Foundation in 2005.(8) The primary directive of Michelson Found Animals is to end the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable pets in our nation’s shelters.
Since a significant barrier to ending shelter euthanasia is the limitation of our current sterilization techniques, to save more pets, their reproduction must be slowed. Gary Michelson realized that to achieve this, sterilization must be easier, safer, and more cost-effective than surgery. To incentivize focus on this issue, Dr. Michelson created the Michelson Prize & Grants program, a $75 million dollar initiative which awards grants to scientific research in pursuit of a nonsurgical sterilization technique for cats and dogs.(9)
Future-thinking but pragmatic, Gary Michelson also gives substantial monetary support to organizations currently doing life-saving work for pets. This support includes grants for spay/neuter clinics and outreach, surrender prevention counseling at local shelters, and in the last few years, a fundraising competition called the Saving Pets Challenge, where non-profit organizations in the animal welfare space compete to raise the most money and receive a substantial cash grant.(10)
Through his enterprises thus far, Gary Michelson has improved the lives of millions of people, and millions of pets. As these programs continue to mature and succeed, even more will benefit from his persistent vision of a better future.(11)
1. Dr. Gary K. Michelson: Inventor and life-saver [2016-03-31; Naomi Pfefferman, The Jewish Journal] http://www.jewishjournal.com/cover_story/article/dr._gary_k._michelson_inventor_and_life_saver
2. The Intangible Advantage - Preface [20MM] http://michelsonip.com/intangible-advantage/
3. The Los Angeles 500 – The Most Influential People in Los Angeles: Dr. Gary Michelson [August 2016; The Los Angeles Business Journal]
4. Gary K. Michelson - Biography | USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience [https://michelson.usc.edu/biography/]
5. Gary Michelson Patents [http://garymichelsonpatents.com]
6. L.A. Surgeon to Be Paid $1.35 Billion for Patents [2005-04-23; Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times]
7. $50 million gift funds convergent bioscience research at USC [January 13, 2014; USC News https://news.usc.edu/58206/michelson/]
8. Gary Michelson - Michelson Found Animals Foundation [http://www.foundanimals.org/gary-michelson/]
9. Inventor Michelson offers $75M for a way to sterilize pets [2008-10-15; Sharon L. Peters, USA TODAY]
10. Michelson Found Animals' "Saving Pets Challenge" Raises Nearly $1.3 Million for Shelter/Rescue Animals across the U.S.[August 16, 2016; Business Wire http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160816005415/en/Michelson-Animals-Saving-Pets-Challenge-Raises-1.3]
11. Transparency Talk: Gary K. Michelson joins The Giving Pledge [2016-03-15; Daniel Matz, Glasspockets.org] http://blog.glasspockets.org/2016/03/giving-pledge-michelson-20160315.html