USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience Breaks Ground

A new era in medical research began in October, as the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience broke ground on the University Park Campus of the University of Southern California (USC).

The new building, made possible by a $50 million gift from Dr. Gary Michelson, the founder of the Found Animals Foundation, and his wife Alya Michelson, will add 190,000 square feet to the campus and will accommodate about 25 to 30 investigators working in collaborative, shared lab spaces. In addition to the flexible labs, the building will also hold a Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis, a nanofabrication facility, and a suite of microscopy imaging technology – all to be outfitted with top-of-line tools and equipment. The Center is expected to be completed in 2017.

The creation of the USC Michelson Center marks a new collaboration between the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Says Dr. Michelson, “USC is well-known for producing entrepreneurs in a wide array of disciplines, and the USC Michelson Center will now help leverage the university’s network of scientists and engineers to tackle challenges in health, biomedicine, and many related fields.” Further, Dr. Michelson predicted that the Los Angeles area will soon become an epicenter for biomedical research.

The Michelson Prize & Grants team is especially excited about the USC Michelson Center, as its promise of integrative research coincides with our approaches in reproductive biology, toxicology, immunology, and many other disciplines to find a single-dose, nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs. We look forward to hearing more from the Center!

MPG Scientific Advisory Board Visits the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Scientific Advisory Board of the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology program recently held their final meeting of the year, but this was no typical board meeting – this month the Board found themselves at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden spending time with Bactrian camels, a cheetah, and the only Sumatran rhino in captivity in Northern America. They even got up-close and personal with several free-roaming peacocks (who tend to think they run the Zoo)!

This exciting trip was made possible through the generous hospitality of Dr. Bill Swanson, the Director of Animal Research at the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), and one of MPG’s Scientific Advisory Board members. Not only did Dr. Swanson volunteer to host the Board meeting, but he also graciously gave the Board a “backstage tour” of the Zoo the following day.

In addition to holding this meeting in a new and exciting venue, the meeting format this time around was also very different for our Board. Rather than evaluate new proposals for funding consideration, the Board took a close look at the 33 projects that it has approved over the past 5 years in order to draw important conclusions about which approaches and targets appear to be the most promising, and to develop clear ideas about where the program should head in the future. While the Board is very excited about all of the Michelson Grant research findings generated since it awarded its first grant in 2009, strategic planning exercises like this will ensure that we are seeking out and funding projects that are most likely to quickly help us reach our goal of developing a nonsurgical sterilant for cats and dogs.

On the day following our meeting, Dr. Swanson treated the Board to a tour of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, which included stops along the way at CREW’s facilities, the Zoo’s veterinary hospital, and meet-and-greets with Humphrey and Jack (Bactrian camels), Harapan (Sumatran rhino), and Savanna (cheetah), one of the Cat Ambassadors of the Zoo.

What the Board found was that Jack (Humphrey’s son) loved to have his picture taken, Harapan enjoys a good nose rub, and Savanna purrs just like any other house cat (although much louder).

The Board also learned about the crucial conservation work CREW is performing on a daily basis. Through advanced animal research and plant research, CREW is working to secure a positive future for endangered species. CREW’s current Signature Conservation Projects include exceptional plants, rhinos, small cats, and polar bears.

The next MPG Board meeting will take place in February 2015 and, although it won’t include visits with endangered species or exotic animals, it will bring the Board another opportunity to review new and innovative proposals in the search for a single-dose, nonsurgical sterilization method for cats and dogs. The whole Michelson Prize & Grants team looks forward to it!