UC Irvine renames biology school after $50-million donation from entrepreneur

Irvine, CA - May 11: Students and faculty travel through the campus at the University of California-Irvine in Irvine Thursday, May 11, 2023. UC Irvine is boosting student housing construction amid a critical statewide shortage of affordable dorms, which has pushed some students to live in cars, tents or squeezed into cramped quarters with several roommates. UCI received a state housing construction grant, one of the few UC campuses to do so; the funds will help the university offer rents at 30% below market value. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The School of Biological Sciences will now be called the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

UC Irvine will rename its biological sciences school after Orange County biotech pioneer Charlie Dunlop, who recently made a $50-million donation to the school.

The university said the money will be used for an endowment fund that will usher in a “new era of discovery,” bolstering academics and research programs within the school.

“Charlie Dunlop’s dedication to this vision and his deep generosity will help UC Irvine set a standard that other biology programs in the U.S. can follow,” Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a statement.

The School of Biological Sciences will now be called the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences.

Dunlop, a UC San Diego graduate, founded Ambry Genetics in 1999. He grew the company from its small office above a Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop into a leading genetics testing firm with 700 employees.

In 2017, the Aliso Viejo-based company was bought by a Japanese manufacturer in a deal valued at up to $1 billion.

Dunlop's company made headlines for making the genetic data from the people it tested publicly available with the idea that researchers could use it to study genes linked to certain diseases. Dunlop said at the time that his experience with prostate cancer fueled his decision to make anonymized genetic information public.

Dunlop said his company recruited heavily from UC Irvine and credited the school for teaching much of his workforce.

“It would have been impossible to build a business like Ambry without UC Irvine,” he said in a statement.

The School of Biological Sciences had previously been named after faculty member Francisco J. Ayala, a famed geneticist who gave the school $10 million he’d earned from his highly profitable vineyards. Ayala's name was dropped from the school in 2018 after a university investigation found he sexually harassed multiple faculty members and graduate students. At the time, the donation was the largest ever from a faculty member.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.