Oracle founder donates $200 million to create USC cancer research center

Larry Ellison's $200-million gift will establish the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Oracle founder Larry Ellison has donated $200 million to USC to fund a cancer research center, the university announced Wednesday.

The gift matched the largest single donation ever received by the school.

In 2011, alumnus David Dornsife, the chairman of a large steel fabricating company, and his wife, Dana, also donated $200 million to USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest academic unit, without restrictions on how it should be spent.

Ellison’s gift will establish the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC, which will be built in West Los Angeles, away from the school’s main campus south of downtown.


David B. Agus, a professor of engineering and medicine, will lead the institute, which will also employ physics, biology, math and engineering experts engaged in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer.

The gift “will serve as a dynamic force for change in how we approach cancer treatment and prevention,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said in a statement.

Ellison was named the world’s second-richest man by Forbes last year with a $50-billion net worth, trailing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

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Ellison dropped out of college and never attended USC, although his son, David, did attend the film school. Ellison will be USC’s commencement speaker Friday.

But Ellison and Agus have known each other for some time, and the tech mogul expressed interest in funding cancer research, Nikias said in an interview.

Nikias and Ellison have been discussing the donation for nearly 15 months.

“From the very first meeting he came across as being very motivated to do this,” Nikias said. “He is a strong believer in interdisciplinary research.”

Nikias said the center’s Westside location is part of the university’s growth plans. “It’s part of our strategy to reach out to larger patient populations,” he said.

The gift comes as USC officials are engaged in a $6-billion fundraising campaign. The school recently passed $5 billion in donations.

Ellison canceled a planned $115-million donation to Harvard University in 2006. The gift would have been Harvard’s largest donation at that time and was intended to create a global health foundation.

Ellison reneged on the gift after then-Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers stepped down, he said. “I lost confidence that that money would be well spent,” he said at the time.

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