Research center to open to students, researchers this spring

Kevin Ho Nguyen/Staff
Li Ka-shing attended the dedication of the Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which will bear his name.

With a snip of a blue ribbon and the beating of Cal Straw Hat band drums, UC Berkeley’s Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences was dedicated Friday morning in front of a crowd of over 100.

Beginning with a gift of $40 million from the Li Ka Shing Foundation in 2005, the 200,000-square-foot center will be open for classes in the spring semester and will provide lab space for over 450 researchers.

The building will also house centers focusing on brain imaging, stem cell research and the research of emerging and neglected diseases.

Li Ka-shing, one of the earliest donors to the project and the highest private donor, said at the dedication that he hoped his donation will allow researchers who have “far fewer resources and many challenges to surmount” an opportunity to engage in innovative research.

“I believe investments in high quality education are the best investments in improving the human condition,” Li said through a translator. “I know that your discoveries will bring significant change to our world and positive benefits for all mankind.”

The dedication comes four years after the UC Board of Regents approved the building, which was “designed to facilitate interactive, multidisciplinary research into the molecular mechanisms of human disease,” according to the regents’ documents. The campus then demolished the seismically unsafe Warren Hall in 2008 to make space for the new building.

Jonathan Thomas, the governing board chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who spoke at the event, said Li’s earlier donation provided a motivation for other private and public donors to step forward and support the center.

Out of the approximately $257 million budget for the project, about $75 million in funding came from external financing, about $53 million came from state funds and about $129 million came from private donations, with Li being the lead donor.

“Only with a giving heart can we propel positive change that lasts,” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said at the ceremony. “Many thanks to Mr. Li, whose generosity is fueling a world-class research center that will allow our faculty and students to reach across disciplines and borders to create a healthier world.”

Birgeneau added that the center itself will benefit the faculty and students of UC Berkeley as well as bring together teams of researchers.

“This center embodies what is so exciting about teaching and research at UC Berkeley,” he said.

Other donors included the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Thomas said advancements made at the center could be on par with the discovery of the polio vaccine in terms of their significance to research into diseases.

“Things are happening scientifically at breakneck speeds,” Thomas said. “Great things … will happen in this building.”

During the dedication, Li was also awarded the Berkeley Medal, an honor bestowed upon individuals “whose achievements illustrate the ideals of the university,” according to Birgeneau. He added that the medal is the highest honor offered by the school.

“Mr. Li has devoted his time, energy and resources to serving mankind,” Birgeneau said. “Every project donation stems from his belief in the value of each human life.”

Mihir Zaveri of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Li Ka-shing’s name in the accompanying photo.