Facility to be designed to advance cross-disciplinary teaching, translational research

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.

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.

Goldstein added: “Innovation is the backbone of our mission: Discover. Teach. Heal. It underpins the design of the new building, which will house programs that capitalize on work that crosses disciplinary boundaries and fosters collaborations not only with our healthcare system, UCI Health, but throughout the university and with industry to speed discoveries to our patients.”

The cutting-edge space will enable UCI to recruit and retain high-profile faculty and launch promising careers for basic, translational and clinically trained scientists. It will allow students to learn alongside these researchers and physician-scientists on floors dedicated to specific health issues, including cancer, neuroscience and drug discovery. Findings revealed in these laboratories will be transformed into more effective tools to predict and prevent illness and treat disease, elevating healthcare in Orange County and around the world.

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.

Prof. Robert A. Mah and Dr. Adeline Yen Mah.
Prof. Robert A. Mah and Dr. Adeline Yen Mah.

“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.”