Technology and entertainment moguls headline most successful fund-raising event for USC center for cancer research — $9 million raised in one night

March 27, 2014

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Contact: Sherri Snelling, Executive Director – Public & Media Relations at (323) 442-4828 or sherri.snelling@med.usc.edu

LOS ANGELES (March 27, 2014) – More than 500 luminaries in the entertainment, medical science, technology and business sectors gathered for the second annual Rebels With A Cause event last Thursday night, resulting in millions of dollars in contributions for the life-saving cancer research of David B. Agus, M.D. (right), professor of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Westside Cancer Center and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM).  Larry Ellison, CEO and co-founder of Oracle, was honored as the 2014 “Rebel With A Cause” for his long-standing support of Dr. Agus’ research.  At the end of his acceptance speech, Ellison announced his commitment to match the evening’s fund-raising efforts of $4.5 million for a grand total of $9 million.

“Tonight’s announcement from Larry Ellison was a truly moving moment,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the Keck School of Medicine and the man instrumental in bringing Dr. Agus to USC.  “Larry believed in Dr. Agus’ work from the beginning when his foundation announced funding for the initiation of our cancer research at the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine,” continued Puliafito.  “The generosity of this evening’s guests – the Hollywood A-listers, entertainment and technology industry executives and business leaders – as well as the visionary champions we have in Larry Ellison and Brad Grey will continue to ensure cancer patients today and in the future have hope for better outcomes and improved survival rates at USC.”

The event was co-hosted by Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey and wife, Cassandra, along with Dean Puliafito who joined co-presenting sponsors for the evening, Lynne and Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com.  Stage 31 at Paramount studios was turned into an exquisite white ballroom for the evening’s event, which was emceed by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.   David Foster served as musical director for Rebels, kicking the evening off with hip-hop R&B singer-songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams’ rousing performance of his Oscar-nominated tune, “Happy.” Grammy, Tony, and Emmy Award winning superstar Barry Manilow had the crowd on their feet with several of his hit songs, including “I Made It Through the Rain,” “Copacabana,” and ending with the event-relevant, “One Voice,” in a stunning performance with 62 members of the USC Thornton School of Music Choir.

Brad Grey, whose fund-raising efforts over the last two years have helped raise significant dollars for USC’s CAMM, welcomed guests including Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, John Stamos, Bob Saget, January Jones, Jerry Bruckheimer and Chris Pine. One of the most poignant moments of the evening took place when actors Jonah Hill and Anna Kendrick read aloud from patient letters depicting personal experiences of the life-changing effects of Dr. Agus’ work.

“I first met David Agus through Sumner Redstone, and as I’ve gotten to know David through the years I’ve become a huge admirer,” said Brad Grey.  “It’s extraordinary work he’s doing. Dr. Agus and his team’s tireless and most innovative efforts towards fighting cancer is what propelled us to support this incredibly worthy cause. Like Dr. Agus and Larry Ellison, Cassandra and I are committed to the profound advancements taking place in the fields of genomics, proteomics and gene sequencing.”

“Both Larry and Brad have been champions for the breakthroughs our research is doing to find better ways to manage cancer patient treatments,” said Dr. David Agus. “Philanthropy is allowing us to think outside of the box – to do things differently to fight cancer, to take the risks needed – to treat the millions of people worldwide impacted by cancer.”

Agus believes each cancer patient needs to be treated according to his/her own molecular make-up – there is no “one size fits all” approach to fighting cancer.

“USC is a leader in bringing together different disciplines in research to find cures and solutions quicker – to benefit patients with cancer,” continued Agus. “Our Center brings together a multi-disciplinary team of cancer biologists, molecular biologists, computer scientists, physicists, engineering experts and mathematicians to push the envelope further. We get to continue the fight because of the overwhelming support of visionaries such as Larry and Brad. Without the generosity of those who attended the event, cancer wins, and we can’t let that happen.”

As one of the world’s richest men, Ellison is also one of the most generous philanthropists. He was honored at the event as one of the original champions of Dr. Agus’ research, having provided the initial funding for CAMM in 2009.  Dr. Agus told the audience it was at a time when funding was scarce for medical research and his years of pursuing better treatments for cancer patients through proteomic technology was at risk. Ellison provided the funding Agus needed to keep going as he found a new home at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“I first met David in 2006 when my dear relative was diagnosed with cancer and given little hope for survival,” Ellison told the crowd as he took the stage to be honored. “I reached out to Dr. Agus and today that close relative is still alive because of the innovative oncology treatment David provided.” Ellison became a believer and has dedicated significant funding since 2009 to continue the pioneering research Dr. Agus is leading at USC.

The Rebels With A Cause event was part of the Keck Medicine Initiative and the Campaign for the University of Southern California. For more information, please visit: keckmedicineofusc.org.

Photo: David B. Agus (Photo credit: Philip Channing)

ABOUT THE USC CENTER FOR APPLIED MOLECULAR MEDICINE (CAMM)
The USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM) was founded at the Keck School of Medicine in 2009 by David B. Agus, M.D. to develop new cross-disciplinary approaches to treating and preventing cancer. The Center includes teams members with expertise spanning oncology, cancer biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, computer science, electrical engineering, bioorganic chemistry, physics and applied mathematics. The CAMM program includes the clinical care of cancer patients at the USC Norris Westside Cancer Center in Beverly Hills. For information, visit: camm.usc.edu.

ABOUT KECK MEDICINE OF USC
Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical entities, it consists of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the region’s first medical school; the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established in the United States; the USC Care Medical Group, the medical faculty practice; the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 401-licensed bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-licensed bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-licensed bed community hospital. It also includes outpatient facilities in Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, and the USC University Park Campus. USC faculty physicians and Keck School of Medicine departments also have practices throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. The Keck Medicine of USC world-class medical facilities are staffed by nearly 600 physicians who are faculty at the renowned Keck School of Medicine of USC and part of USC Care Medical Group. For more information, visit: keckmedicine.org/beyond.