A recent $50 million donation from Orange County biotech entrepreneur Charlie Dunlop for the University of California, Irvine, will create an endowed fund providing unrestricted support for academic and research activities within the School of Biological Sciences. Dean Frank LaFerla announced the gift before thousands of newly graduating students, where Dunlop was the featured speaker.

Chancellor Howard Gillman stated, “This gift supports UC Irvine’s belief that human and environmental health are integrated and that well-being requires an evidence-based approach that engages all disciplines in the School of Biological Sciences. Charlie Dunlop’s dedication to this vision and deep generosity will help UC Irvine set a standard that other biology programs in the U.S. can follow.”

Frank LaFerla, Dr. Lionel and Fay Ng Dean’s Chair in Biological Sciences, also stated that he “[wanted] to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Charlie Dunlop for his extraordinary generosity and enduring commitment to the advancement of the life sciences and the betterment of our society. Thanks to him, the school will enter a new era of discovery and excellence. Together, our students, faculty, and all of our biological sciences community will embark on a journey of innovation and impact.”

In honor of Dunlop’s contributions and spirit for biology and medicine, LAFerla announced the official renaming of the school to the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences, which sets an inspiring example for future students to innovate and apply groundbreaking discoveries.

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Charlie Dunlop’s Background

Dunlop is a leading biotech scientist and entrepreneur in Orange County, where he was raised. He graduated from UC San Diego and founded Ambry Genetics in 1999 in a small office above a Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop after raising around $500,000 from friends and family.

The company became a pioneer in genetic testing and was the first in the world to offer tests such as hereditary cancer panels and clinical exome sequencing. Dunlop also championed the open sharing of genetic data. The openness revolutionized the industry and created advancements in health sciences globally. During his time at Ambry, Dunlop was a valuable source of scientific personnel and regularly hired biological sciences graduates. Dunlop was the president and chairman of the board of Ambry Genetics until it was sold to Konica Minolta in 1017.

“UC Irvine is a huge asset to California, to the community and to Irvine,” Dunlop has stated. “It would have been impossible to build a business like Ambry without UC Irvine and the higher education system in California, so for me to give back to the system that produced me and most of Ambry’s employees seems like the right thing to do.”

Dunlop is also a Biological Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council member and was the featured speaker at the school’s 2016 commencement.

In 2007, Dunlop helped found the Mauli Ola Foundation, which provides hope to individuals with genetic diseases. By harnessing the restorative powers of the ocean, the foundation introduced surfing and other ocean-centric activities as natural therapies. As an avid surfer, he learned that people with cystic fibrosis get relief and treatment from being in the ocean, which led him to combine his professional and personal passion to create the foundation.

“By himself and through the company he founded, Ambry Genetics, Charlie has been incredibly generous to UC Irvine, and we are proud and excited to name the School of Biological Sciences in recognition of his transformational gift,” LaFerla, who is also a Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, said. “As a lifelong surfer, Charlie fully understands and is very supportive of our school’s mission of ‘mind, body, world’ – that to have a healthy mind and body, we need to have a healthy planet. He exemplifies this in his work and how he lives.”

The Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences

The School of Biological Sciences was one of the original divisions of UC Irvine when the campus was opened in 1965. At the time, Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. recruited Edward A. Steinhaus as the founding dean and organized the school based on levels of analysis rather than on taxonomy, which was a common practice at that point. His rationale was that greater advances would result from clustering faculty who studied similar biological processes instead of grouping individuals studying similar organisms. This was revolutionary then, and the structure has been almost universally adopted at universities worldwide.

With over 4,000 graduates and 300 graduate students, the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences is one of the largest academic units at UC Irving. Multidisciplinary research and educational opportunities exist within the areas of cancer and infectious diseases, developmental biology, and genetics, as well as other disciplines.

“My focus is biology because it is the kind of science where dedication at the bench translates directly to success,” Dunlop has stated. “My experiences with children’s hospitals reaffirm the critical importance of our science. Whether aiding sick patients, supporting ecosystems, or conducting basic research, the advancement of our field is vital. This is why I have chosen to make this contribution to UC Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences.”