Our foundations

Michelson Philanthropies is a group of privately funded operating foundations that directly work to create transformative opportunities through grantmaking, impact investments, advocacy, and strategic partnerships that support vulnerable and underserved communities. Reflecting the passions of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson, Michelson Philanthropies catalyzes sustainable, scalable, replicable solutions to a host of challenges in California and beyond.

Michelson Medical Research Foundation, founded in 1995, creates medical research infrastructure and drives a model for highly collaborative convergent projects and targeted science that empowers researchers to translate bold ideas into therapies that save lives and provides vital boosts to people and programs through research grants and prizes, strategic investments, and other tools.

Funding Forward Thinking Medical Research

Michelson Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) supports early career investigators; rebalancing research funding to spur more creativity, innovation, and progress in medical research. We support brilliant scientists like Paul Bastard, Ph.D. (pictured left) who was awarded a Michelson Philanthropies & Science Prize for his work to find answers on why some children and adults get severe COVID by focusing on the genetic and immunological determinants of severe viral diseases, including the causes and consequences of autoantibodies against type I interferons. Our goal is to uplift researchers like Dr. Bastard so they can translate their ideas into positive and impactful therapies.

Michelson Medical funding contributes to the fight against infectious and degenerative diseases, advances new surgical technologies, promotes the ethical treatment of animals in medicine, and much more. The foundation operates several Michelson Prizes, including the Michelson Prize in Human Immunology & Vaccine Research.

Michelson Found Animals Foundation, founded in 2005, directly provides animal welfare services and champions pets at every point they intersect with our society. The foundation operates a range of initiatives, including grants and programs that put resources in the hands of communities in need, conducts research that promotes pet-friendly policies, and more.

Progressing Animal Welfare

Michelson Found Animals Foundation was founded with the mission to save pets and enrich lives. With over $100 million committed to animal welfare to date, MFA operates a range of initiatives that reduce shelter euthanasia and improve the lives of pets and the people who love them. Since its founding, MFA has helped over six million pets.

MFA programs include creating the first free national pet microchip registry serving millions of pets, awarding and implementing grants and partnerships that place pet care resources in communities in need, making investments that spur innovation in pet care, and supporting research promoting more pet-friendly housing policies. In Los Angeles, MFA has been the largest grant funder of companion animal welfare in the city since 2006, providing more than $11 million in grants to organizations dedicated to keeping pets out of shelters.

Through the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology, the foundation is also the global leader in research into non-surgical spay/neuter alternatives for cats and dogs, widely considered the best option to end shelter euthanasia.

Michelson 20 Million Minds Foundation, founded in 2010, is a privately funded operating foundation that seeks to improve educational access, efficacy, and equity for the nation’s 20 million postsecondary students and invests in tech entrepreneurs, changemakers, and policy to catalyze scalable innovations in the knowledge economy and accelerate progress toward a more just world.

Promoting Access to Education

Moved by a news story of qualified students dropping out of community college due to the high cost of textbooks, Dr. Michelson founded the Michelson 20MM Foundation to promote equal access to education. What started as provisions to students in need quickly grew to a $1.5 million grant to Openstax, creating the world’s first commercial grade, openly licensed college textbook library available to students at zero cost. Today, Michelson 20MM Foundation operates a variety of programs that lead the intersection of innovation in education and equity.

The foundation’s work is catalytic in increasing access, affordability, and efficacy in higher education and beyond through the use of new technologies and educational models. Michelson 20MM Foundation advanced its education agenda with the creation of the country’s first impact oriented higher education accelerator: Michelson Runway. Operating from 2016 to 2019, Michelson Runway supported and directly invested in scalable, mission aligned, for-profit start-ups working to improve student retention, address the dropout crisis, create new models for career training, and more (Phillip Kim, 20MM CEO, pictured left at the 2017 Michelson Runway Demo Day).

More recently, Michelson 20MM expanded its focus to include increased access and affordability in the areas of equity for incarcerated youth, student basic needs, and decreasing the digital divide in education.

miip logo

The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property (MIIP) champions the widespread understanding of IP fundamentals to empower students, educators, and budding inventors, entrepreneurs, and creators. The initiative aims to close the existing IP education gap among young inventors and students, women, and people of color by providing access to free high-quality educational content.

Advancing Principles of Intellectual Property

Dr. Gary K. Michelson created the Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property (Michelson IP), an initiative that addresses the lack of IP literacy throughout higher education, provides free IP education resources for hundreds of institutions, and works hand-in-hand with faculty to promote IP awareness. In 2018, Michelson IP partnered with the University of Southern California to debut one of the nation’s first undergraduate IP courses, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Intellectual Property. Taught by IP lawyer Luke Dauchot and featuring guest lectures from IP leaders at prominent companies and startups, the course—designed for students from all academic disciplines—was such a resounding success that it was given permanent status in the curriculum. In 2020, more than 6,500 new online course learners and over 34,000 new subscribers accessed Michelson IP materials, growing by double digits over the previous year.

To date, Michelson IP has generated more than $350 million in textbook savings for students.

michelson center for public policy

The Michelson Center for Public Policy (MCPP) is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that advances innovative policy solutions and funding for medical research, access to higher education and careers for underserved communities, and animal welfare.

MCPP bolsters health and medical research investments by advocating for increased and more equitable funding for scientific agencies and research institutions, including the state of California’s historic $500-million budget appropriation in 2022 for the  California Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy.