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$22 million gift from Jim Sorenson family enables transformative research and medical device innovation
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$22 million gift from Jim Sorenson family enables transformative research and medical device innovation

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the James LeVoy Sorenson Center for Medical Innovation at the University of Utah. Upon its completion in 2026, center will serve as a beacon of transformative research and medical device innovation.

Named in honor of James LeVoy Sorenson, a prolific inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, the SCMI will pay tribute to his remarkable legacy. With over 50 patents issued in his name, Sorenson revolutionized the standard of care with inventions such as the disposable surgical face cover, the single-use intravenous catheter and hemodynamic arterial monitoring devices.

This state-of-the-art facility will also aid in U of U Health’s unwavering commitment to advancing medical science and improving patient care.

“This center exemplifies our commitment to entrepreneurialism and accelerating the transfer of the U’s research into practical use,” said University of Utah President Taylor Randall. “The center will promote collaboration and drive transformative advancements in medical care and device development. The facility will be a national leader and have influence that reaches well beyond campus, shaping the future of health care for generations to come.”

The $50 million facility has been made possible by a generous lead gift of $22 million from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation.

“This new facility honors Jim’s fundamental contributions to the creation of the medical device industry in Utah and nationally,” said Gary Crocker, chair, Center for Medical Innovation’s board and chair, Sorenson Legacy Foundation. “It also ensures that his legacy of innovation and his relentless pursuit of excellence continues to inspire future students and innovators.”

Student innovator Libby Brooks shared her impactful experiences with the center. Brooks, a member of the C-Blu team received the grand prize at the 14th annual Bench to Bedside Competition for developing a blue-light colposcope that blue-light colposcope which increases the sensitivity of images generated during cervical cancer screenings.

“I could never have imagined myself developing a medical device that could have such a meaningful impact on the world,” said Brooks. “I want my fellow students to believe that any one of us can become the next James LeVoy Sorenson and improve the lives of millions of people in need.”

“My father’s passion for innovation and commitment to improving health care have left an indelible mark on the world,” said Jim Sorenson, chair, Sorenson Impact Foundation. “This center not only honors his memory but also carries forward his legacy of innovation and impact, ensuring that his pioneering spirit lives on in the work of future generations.”

Hosted on four levels totaling nearly 60,000 square feet of space, the Sorenson Center for Medical Innovation will include:

Advanced prototyping and clean room assembly labs dedicated to creating and refining groundbreaking medical innovations.

Vibrant collaboration spaces fostering cross-campus interdisciplinary cooperation and fueling the drive for transformative innovation and discovery.

A state-of-the-art clinical bio-tissue surgery discovery suite enabling physicians, faculty and staff to evaluate and refine new medical technologies and procedures in a hands-on, accessible, real-world environment.

Startup incubator spaces expressly designed to nurture university spinouts and student startups. These high-potential startups will drive technology licensing opportunities for the university and economic growth for the state.

“This center represents more than just a building; it’s a gateway to endless possibilities for future students,” said Mark Paul, executive director of the Center for Medical Innovation. “By providing access to cutting-edge research facilities, mentorship opportunities and a vibrant community of innovators, this center will empower students to pursue their passion for medical innovation and make a tangible difference in the world. It’s not just about shaping the future of health care; it’s about shaping the lives of the students who will lead it.”

With the groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction, U of U Health looks forward to the transformative impact that the James LeVoy Sorenson Center for Medical Innovation will have on medical research, patient care and the lives of future generations.

Sorenson Impact Founder James Lee Sorenson provided the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business with a $13 million gift in 2013 to create the Sorenson Impact Center — formerly the James Lee Sorenson Center for Global Impact Investing (SGII) — with a mission to cultivate students’ social impact expertise.

Jim plays an active role in supporting the Center and mentoring its student participants. After leading a team that developed a high-quality, low-cost videoconferencing technology that transformed communication capabilities for 1,000,000 deaf individuals in the early 2000s, Jim realized that his investments could “do well while doing good,” and he hasn’t looked back.

Jim was an early funder of microfinance, funding the nonprofit Unitus in the early 2000s and subsequently investing in Unitus’s for-profit spinoff, Unitus Equity Fund (UEF). Through UEF, Jim invested in SKS Microfinance Ltd., now called Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd., an Indian company providing financial services to the poor. From 2006 to 2009, SKS grew from serving 200,000 clients to 3,700,000. SKS went public in 2009 with a market capitalization of $1.7 billion.

In 2012, through the Sorenson Impact Foundation, Jim began making program-related investments (PRIs) into high-impact, early-stage social enterprises with robust business models capable of reaching underserved populations at scale. In 2013, Jim became an early investor into Pay for Success, also called social impact bonds (SIBs). His first PFS investment was in New York State for a program that aimed to reduce recidivism. Financial returns depended on the success of job-training programs for newly released prisoners.

When the project was announced, 41 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals returned to prison within three years, costing the government $60,000 per prisoner annually.

Since then, Jim has participated in several PFS transactions in the state of Utah and Massachusetts.

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