UCLA has received a $20 million gift to establish a center to study microbes, which play a role in such autoimmune diseases as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, officials announced Wednesday.
The gift from Andrea and Donald Goodman and Renee and Meyer Luskin will establish the UCLA Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center and fund efforts to develop new treatments for a wide range of conditions.
“The Goodmans and Luskins have been enduring supporters of UCLA Health’s mission to heal humankind and we are deeply grateful for this visionary gift,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement. “This is an investment in our distinguished researchers and their ability to find new pathways that advance patient care.”
Microbial organisms in the human gastrointestinal tract, commonly referred to as the gut, are essential to human development, immunity and nutrition. Such conditions as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and eating disorders, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, substance use and psychiatric disorders are associated with dysfunction in the microbiome.
Scores of investigators at the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases and across the campus are working to “fingerprint” the brain and gut microbiome to elucidate the role microbial diversity plays in resistance to disease, and whether lifestyle interventions can reduce the risks for and symptoms of chronic diseases, researchers said.
“Further study of the relationship between the microbiome and the brain is critical,” said Dr. Steven Dubinett, interim dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “We extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Goodmans and the Luskins for their commitment to this innovative field.”
Donald Goodman is the president of Don Lee Farms, a multigenerational family food company he founded in 1982. It produces food products for the country’s top retailers, including Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons. He and his wife, Andrea, have been recognized by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank for their longstanding philanthropic efforts, and by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, for their support of scholarships for exceptional high school students in Inglewood.
Renee and Meyer Luskin earned degrees from UCLA in 1953 and 1949, respectively. Meyer Luskin is an industry leader in the business of recycling and processing food waste. In 2011, the couple made gifts to name the UCLA Luskin Conference Center and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.