The Choi Family’s gift inspires USC Stem Cell scientists to “Return to the Beginning”

The Choi Family’s gift inspires USC Stem Cell scientists to “Return to the Beginning”

From left, philanthropists Kin-Chung and Amy Choi with Andy McMahon, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC (Photo by Steve Cohn)

Twenty-five years ago, philanthropists Kin-Chung and Amy Choi marked the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary by purchasing the sculpture “Return to the Beginning,” by renowned Taiwanese artist Yuyu Yang. Now in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, they have donated the sculpture to grace the lobby of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

“With the establishment of USC Stem Cell, I am inspired by your goal to reduce patient suffering and enhance quality of life,” said Kin-Chung Choi. “Amy and I would like to pass along this beautiful sculpture to USC Stem Cell in hopes that it inspires creativity in your medical pursuits.”

At a dinner reception on June 10, USC’s stem cell research center director Andy McMahon welcomed friends, family and faculty and thanked the Chois for their leadership in supporting stem cell research and many other transformative endeavors at USC.

“It’s very special that the Choi family would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by coming and visiting the center and donating a beautiful piece of art,” said McMahon. “I’m exceptionally grateful to the Choi Family for all the support that they’ve given to this center that’s been truly transformative since I came here four years ago.”

In 2014, the Choi family gave a generous gift to establish the Choi Family Therapeutic Screening Facility, which enables investigators from USC and beyond to improve their understanding of diseases and to accelerate the discovery of potential therapeutic drugs. During the dinner reception, Justin Ichida, director of the Choi Family Therapeutic Screening Facility, shared how the facility has already identified drug leads for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and brought significant new funding to USC though an academic-pharmaceutical company partnership between the Ichida laboratory and Sanofi.

More recently, the Choi family made visionary gifts to support the research and education mission of USC’s stem cell research center, and to bring the 2019 International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Conference to Los Angeles. The family has also commissioned a new art work to be displayed in USC’s stem cell research center.

Qi-Long Ying—associate professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, and cell and neurobiology—focused his remarks on Yuyu Yang’s stunning sculpture, which the artist described as a “newborn phoenix or as a swirling stream of light and air particles at the very beginning of the universe.” Ying observed how both the sculpture and stem cells represent a “Return to the Beginning,” and how art can inspire scientific creativity.

Before unveiling the sculpture, Kin-Chung Choi described his motivation for giving it a new home in USC’s stem cell research center: “One thing that Professor Qi-Long Ying said that was very inspiring was that science and philosophy are very similar. Professor Andy McMahon said that stem cells look very artistic, very pretty, very colorful—like art, almost. It’s very admirable: these scientists not only know about science; they also appreciate science, art and philosophy. And so I’m very happy to have this opportunity to donate this sculpture to the stem cell center. If you ever need a break or run into a roadblock, hopefully you can come down here and feel the qi of the sculpture, and it will give you a little inspiration for your research.”

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