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UCLA, USC TO GET HUGE DONATIONS; MANN TO GIVE EACH SCHOOL $100 MILLION.

Byline: Daily News Staff and Wire Services

Alfred Mann, a pioneer of Los Angeles' biomedicine industry and founder of three Sylmar-based health-care firms, said Wednesday he will donate $100 million each to USC and UCLA for the schools to establish biomedical research centers.

Together, the donations would be among the six largest ever made to higher education.

Mann, 72, said he is making the donations as a way to ``give something back to society'' and that he plans to give away most of his estate rather than leave it to his six children. ``I don't want them to have enough money to sit around and do nothing,'' he said.

Mann said the nonprofit University of Southern California institute will work to develop medical devices such as computer chips that can replace damaged nerve cells. The institute will be based in a four-story building to be built on the downtown campus that also will house the university's biomedical engineering department.

Details of the center at the University of California, Los Angeles, have yet to be worked out, Mann said.

``These gifts are great in the sense that's they're a necessary link between basic science and commercialization,'' said Ahmen Enany, executive director of the Southern California Biomedical Council. ``It can also help add jobs to the region.''

Enany said Mann originally planned to give money solely to UCLA, but that when USC got wind of the deal it swooped in and offered to move faster than the state-run UCLA in getting a center up and running.

Enany said Mann first approached UCLA a decade ago about an endowment, but the school was unprepared at the time for such a center.

``This new institute creates an extraordinary opportunity for USC and for Southern California,'' said USC President Steven Sample. ``Speaking as an engineer who has been in industry as well as academe, I can say that nothing spurs the creative process as much as the prospect of bettering people's lives and improving society as a whole.''

Mann, an Oregon native who graduated from UCLA with bachelor's and master's degrees in physics, has founded seven biomedical and electronics firms over the past 30 years - five in Los Angeles County - including Sylmar-based MiniMed Inc., which produces insulin infusion pumps for diabetics; Advanced Bionics Corp., the only U.S. firm with an implant for the profoundly deaf; and Pacesetter Inc., a leader in the field of cardiac pacemakers.

Mann said that based on the success of his companies, he might fund more centers in years to come. ``If my companies continue to do as well as they are, I could do more,'' he said.

Mann helped jump-start Los Angeles' biomedicine industry in the 1960s when, while working as a satellite battery designer, he decided the same technology could be used to build long-lasting batteries for pacemakers.

Now chairman of the Southern California Biomedical Council, Mann has been a vocal advocate of Los Angeles as a potential hub for the industry, though he has criticized the city for being too bureaucratic.

Mann said he hopes the new institutes will spur development of biotechnology companies in Los Angeles, which he said lag behind the industry hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego.

Giving two such large donations to universities is highly unusual, although Walter Annenberg gave $120 million each to USC and the University of Pennsylvania in 1993.

The Mann endowment for UCLA is the latest example of relatively rare major philanthropic gifts to public universities. The largest gift to a public university before Mann's was the $100 million donated in 1992 by entrepreneur Henry Rowan and his wife, Betty, to Glassboro State College in New Jersey, which was renamed Rowan College.

Public institutions say they need gifts of this size to make up for the loss of state financing.

Mann said he drew his initial inspiration from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which was formed in 1981 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on a gift from Edwin Whitehead, another medical-device entrepreneur.

At the time, the plan raised concern at MIT about whether the university would lose control of its faculty appointments and research agenda to business. That prompted Whitehead to say a few years later, ``It's easier to make $100 million than to give it away.''

University ties with business have become more common since then, and Mann had no such trouble giving his money away.

Mann said his companies would not have preferential access to any technology developed at the institute. But he will be the chairman of the institute's board, and therefore will be in a good position to see what is coming and to help set the research agenda.

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PHOTO Alfred Mann, chairman and CEO of MiniMed in Sylmar, will donate $100 million each to USC and UCLA.

Phil McCarten/Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 5, 1998
Words:807
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