Supported by a $30 million lead gift from the Falling Leaves Foundation, a planned state-of-the-art medical research facility at the University of California, Irvine will expand the global reach and impact of the campus’s advanced cross-disciplinary teaching and translational research achievements.
The approximately 200,000 square-foot Falling Leaves Foundation Medical Innovation Building will be one of the largest in the West and will provide optimal space for core instruction and laboratories to extend advances in medicine and the health sciences. The Falling Leaves Foundation was established by Prof. Robert A. Mah and Dr. Adeline Yen Mah in 2007.
“This exceptional gift recognizes UCI’s preeminence in conducting basic, translational and clinical research dedicated to the discovery of new medical and scientific knowledge,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “The Falling Leaves Foundation Medical Innovation Building will be a vital resource for exploring new frontiers and improving the lives of people in our community and beyond.”
The building will be set in UCI’s health sciences district along Michael Drake Drive, and it will include state-of-the art, well-equipped wet laboratories and meeting spaces to foster groundbreaking research and the training of future investigative pioneers. Teams from diverse disciplines will strategically collaborate to drive innovations that bring novel insights and new treatments to help communities thrive.
“This gift is inspirational and visionary. The research which will be done in this building will help shape the future of health and wellness,” said Steve A.N. Goldstein, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, UCI vice chancellor for health affairs. “The Drs. Mah have led remarkable lives of innovation including teaching and research in microbiology and in clinical care and have left lasting impact in their fields. Two species of archaebacteria, Methanohalophilus mahii and Haloterrigena mahii, as well as the genus, Mahella australiensis, were named in honor of Dr. Robert Mah for his research on the anaerobic archaebacteria.”
Fulfilling a Dream
While Robert Mah, a professor emeritus at UCLA, taught environmental microbiology and Dr. Adeline Mah practiced internal medicine and anesthesiology during their professional careers, it was their dream to do medical research together. In UCI, they found the ideal partner to transform their vision into creative realities.
“The future of medicine,” Adeline Mah said, “is being advanced at an unbelievable rate. 21st-century medical innovation is a collaborative process derived from brilliant minds working together rather than flashes of insight from solitary scientists working alone in his or her lab.”
“Medicine is at the threshold of a new era,” she added. “RNA therapeutics has a virtually limitless future. All of us are witnessing the efficacy and safety of mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. This is only one example. Eventually, every disease will be treatable. We are at the dawn of a therapeutic revolution.”
“Successful collaboration is helped greatly by physical proximity,” she said. “We were impressed by the many sprawling, open workspaces in UCI’s Innovation Building, where scientists will interact with one another and exchange ideas. It gives us enormous satisfaction to imagine the possibility of brilliant young minds working together and bringing concepts to fruition, some as a result of serendipitous encounters in the building’s atrium, coffee shops and numerous scattered seating areas.”
The Falling Leaves Foundation Medical Innovation Building will join the new Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences and Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing and Health Sciences Hall in the growing Health Sciences district, which is only a mile away from the planned UCI Medical Center-Irvine now starting construction. Several established research facilities are also located in the district, including the Biomedical Research Center, which houses UCI institutes and centers where groundbreaking work is conducted in neurosciences, stem cell biology, genomics and proteomics, precision health, AI and data science, and infectious diseases.
“This generous lead gift is the realization of a dream to create a destination that empowers our distinguished researchers today and educates the leaders of tomorrow,” said Brian Hervey, vice chancellor of University Advancement, who will lead the charge to raise an additional $20 million for the project. “Our hope is that this transformational gift will act as a catalyst that will inspire others to contribute to a legacy of innovation that is unique to UCI.”