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Tu Foundation gives $2.5 million for COVID-19 patient care, research

Funding to help university ramp up lifesaving treatments, testing and discoveries

May 11, 2020
UCI Health respiratory therapist who cares for COVID-19 patients having difficulty breathing

Along with funding important research, the Tu Foundation gift will support UCI Health physicians, nurses and therapists providing advanced care for COVID-19 patients. Carlos Puma for UCI Health

Irvine, Calif. — A $2.5-million gift from the John and Mary Tu Foundation to the University of California, Irvine is supporting COVID-19-associated patient care at UCI Health and to advance clinical and translational research across the university campus that is focused on new ways to test for and treat the viral infection.

As the region’s only combined academic health system and public research university, UCI is at the forefront in galvanizing an active response to the pandemic. UCI Health — the university’s clinical enterprise — and the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences have infectious disease experts, public health researchers and world-class clinicians dedicated to mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

“During this challenging time, John and Mary Tu’s gift is having a considerable impact on UCI’s COVID-19-related patient care and research, and we are deeply grateful for their critical support,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman.

“John Tu was inspired about the opportunity to assist UCI Health with our mobilization efforts to serve patients and accelerate research. In fact, John Tu was among the first to come forward and ask how he could help, and he hopes his gift will inspire others to donate to UCI Health as well,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, vice chancellor for health affairs. “This gift is helping to save lives, accelerate testing and advance vaccine development.”

Last year, UCI launched its Brilliant Future philanthropic campaign, which encourages the community to support campus efforts to transform healthcare and wellness, among other priorities. Gifts such as this one from the Tu Foundation will redefine how medical breakthroughs occur; how personalized, compassionate healthcare is taught; and how patients are treated in this pandemic and well into the future.

Reinforcing patient care

Half the Tu gift, $1.25 million, allows physicians, nurses and other caregivers at UCI Health’s flagship facility, UCI Medical Center, to continue providing the most leading-edge care available for patients while implementing new clinical responses and launching community initiatives.

“John and Mary Tu’s gracious support allows us to better focus the leading care we’re known for on the most immediate health crisis of our times,” said Chad T. Lefteris, CEO of UCI Health. “As Orange County’s top complex care provider, UCI Health is well-positioned to grapple with the challenges that COVID-19 poses to our county, state, nation and global community. The Tus’ gift is already having a positive impact on the health of our community.”

UCI Health front-line providers are currently treating patients with COVID-19 and preparing to expand testing services to assess more Orange County residents. Funding for patient care also will enable UCI Health to address any potential surge in patients.

Most immediately, a portion of the Tu Foundation gift is enabling UCI Medical Center intensive care units to expand personnel and secure needed equipment in order to serve those patients most seriously afflicted with COVID-19.

The gift also supports:

  • Drive-up COVID-19 testing sites in Orange and Irvine
  • The ability to handle any inpatient surges with tents and other spaces that have been converted to treat and house COVID-19 patients
  • Purchase of much-needed medical supplies, including personal protective equipment for caregivers
  • Acquisition of additional lab equipment to process more COVID-19 tests internally with quicker turnaround times
  • Expansion of telehealth and telemedicine services and equipment
  • The addition of call-center staff and other personnel to direct patients seeking information about — and care for — COVID-19-related issues

Underwriting world-class research

The remaining $1.25 million of the Tu Foundation gift is advancing research that provides both immediate impact and long-term solutions to pandemic diseases that are increasing in frequency (such as MRSA, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Zika and now COVID-19).

“Campus investigators with world-class expertise — ranging from engineering to vaccine development and molecular mechanisms of viral infection and detection, along with clinician scientists on the front lines — have pivoted rapidly to form interdisciplinary teams on an unprecedented scale,” said Dr. Michael J. Stamos, dean of the UCI School of Medicine. “The Tus’ generous support will drive innovation, invention and the development of vaccines and treatments that will save lives.”

Currently, UCI faculty members are working to translate scientific discoveries into novel therapies, improved tests and a potential vaccine at breakneck speed.

The UCI Office of Research has issued a call for proposals to back research on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Including the $1.25 million Tu Foundation gift for research, the university now has nearly $2.5 million in research support is available. Already, nearly 60 proposals have been submitted, and 16 have been approved for grants through what is now called the UCI Joint Research Fund.

One project, led by Dr. Daniel S. Chow, assistant professor of radiological sciences, is focused on developing a COVID-19 vulnerability scoring system that would enable clinicians to identify and aggressively treat those patients at highest risk for complications due to a COVID-19 infection.

Another project to receive funding — spearheaded by Dr. Saahir Khan, an assistant professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Medicine — is focused on assessing the true prevalence of COVID-19 infections in the United States, using a microarray that can measure antibodies against a large panel of antigens from common human coronaviruses as well as the novel coronavirus, formally named SARS-CoV2.

To review and evaluate proposals, UCI created the Clinical Research Acceleration and Facilitation Team-COVID Committee. Made up of 19 senior investigators, the panel aims to underwrite projects that will help slow and stop the pandemic, as well as position UCI to apply for the emergency funding available from federal agencies for longer-term efforts against coronaviruses and other emerging diseases.

For more information, contact: 

Tom Vasich

For more information

About UCI Health: UCI Health comprises the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center, in Orange, California. The 417-bed acute care hospital provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, and behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, as well as American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. It is the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow UCI Health on Facebook and Twitter.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI and UCI Health. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. Learn more by visiting brilliantfuture.uci.edu.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. To learn more about UCI, visit www.uci.edu.