Setting a Precedent: From Patents to Philanthropy
Sherie and Donald Morrison: UCLA's Benevolent Champions
As an interim member of the Faculty Club board at UCLA, I had the honor of attending a dinner dedicated to commemorating Sherie and Donald Morrison's remarkable philanthropic gesture. Their generous donation of $15.4 million to UCLA will fund endowed graduate support funds in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics, bolster research in marketing, support athletics programs, and the Faculty Club.
It was a pleasure conversing with Don and Sherie about a range of topics including Ford, Detroit, the Red Wings, Robert McNamara, Motown, doo-wop, their move to California, the expansion of classical music facilitated by increased financing to make pianos more accessible, and others.
Don's sharp wit takes center stage as he humorously responds to Sherie's teasing about his tendency to shower her with praise, and when discussing a significant portion of the donation being in bequest property, he jests, "I hope UCLA doesn't receive this for a while!"
He also leaned on that a real driver of his doing this donation was to encourage others to do the same and highlighted how bequests simplify an estate and deliver an enormous amount of value to academic scholarship leading to medical breakthroughs. He also saw the significance of reinvesting resources generated by the medical patents, which had been crucial drivers of innovation, to motivate others to push the envelope in the process of patent discovery within the medical field at UCLA.
What truly resonated with me were the anecdotes he shared of individuals on the golf course, attributing their enhanced quality of life to arthritis medication, oblivious to the fact that he was married to the innovator. Additionally, a touching narrative detailed a physician, once sidelined by severe arthritis, who regained the ability to practice, all thanks to this revolutionary medical breakthrough.
Approaching their sixtieth anniversary, the radiant glow of their enduring love is evident, with Don humorously acknowledging that he married well above his station.
Sherie Morrison is an absolute giant in the academic and scientific community, renowned for her groundbreaking contributions to the fields of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics. As a distinguished professor emerita and former chair at UCLA, her illustrious career spans decades of pioneering research and a profound impact on scientific understanding and medical advancements.
After her studies at Stanford University, Sherie Morrison assumed the role of Professor of Microbiology at Columbia University in 1974, where she gained recognition within the field. Since she transitioned to UCLA in 1988, she has held the esteemed position of Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. Additionally, Morrison chaired UCLA's department from 1992 to 2002 and fulfilled interim chair roles during her tenure.
Her seminal work has shed light on fundamental aspects of antibody function, revolutionizing our understanding of how these vital molecules recognize and neutralize pathogens. By unraveling the complexities of immune responses at the molecular level, she has paved the way for the development of novel therapeutic approaches for treating autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.
Sherie’s patented antibody technology is the basis for medicines used to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Her research has led to the creation of antibody technologies that are foundational for medicines used in the treatment of various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis. She holds more than 29 patents, underscoring her prolific contributions to the field of immunology and therapeutic treatments.
Morrison's patents include innovative approaches to cancer treatment, such as chimeric moieties that show significant efficacy against cancers. These innovations often involve fusion proteins where an antibody specifically binds to a cancer marker and is fused to interferon alpha (IFN-α) or interferon beta (IFN-β), demonstrating potent apoptotic and anti-tumor activities. For instance, her work has led to the development of targeted interferons that show potent effects in inducing apoptosis and inhibiting tumor growth, as well as antibody-endostatin fusion proteins aimed at inhibiting tumor growth.
The significance of Morrison's patents extends beyond their direct application in treatments. Her work represents a broader trend in academia where technology transfer — the process of moving scientific findings from research labs into commercial development — is a major goal. This has been facilitated by legislation such as the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which allows universities to patent inventions arising from federally funded research. Morrison's work with chimeric antibodies, in particular, has been widely licensed and forms the basis for many biotechnology therapies that have become standard treatments over the past two decades. Her contributions have been key in the field of monoclonal antibodies, where she developed techniques to create antibodies with both mouse and human components, leading to better-tolerated treatments by the human immune system.
Sherie Morrison's remarkable achievements and philanthropic endeavors have not only earned her widespread recognition but also led some to believe she merits a Nobel Prize. Her significant contributions have left a lasting impact beyond the confines of the scientific community, touching the lives of the wider populace by substantially improving human health and welfare.
Morrison's pioneering research, alongside her commitment to mentoring and her philanthropic activities, has left an indelible mark on UCLA and the scientific world. She has played a pivotal role in steering the course of biomedical research while also serving as a source of inspiration for the next generation of scientists. Her enduring legacy is a reflection of her unwavering dedication to enhancing scientific knowledge and bettering lives across the globe.
Don Morrison, a professor emeritus at UCLA Anderson since 1988, has left a notable mark on academia, especially in marketing research and applied statistics, with a portfolio boasting over 90 articles and co-authorship of "Stochastic Models of Buying Behavior." While his scholarly accomplishments are noteworthy, Morrison values his mentorship of 18 Ph.D. students, who have gone on to achieve success, as his most cherished academic legacy.
Engaging with Don, Sherie, and their colleagues was an enormously enriching experience, offering invaluable insights into achieving success in academia, industry, and effectively integrating the two through technology transfer or life science offices. UCLA is privileged to have them actively engaged on campus, generously sharing their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the university community.
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