What We Do

What We Do

Michelson Philanthropies spurs innovation across medical research, animal welfare, educational access, and the principles of intellectual property


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 and engineers like Kamal Mandal, Ph.D. (pictured left) who was awarded a Michelson Prize in Human Immunology and Vaccine Research in 2019 for his work in developing new technologies that identify the shape of proteins that could provide new targets for cancer immunotherapy, and have potential applications to other diseases. Our goal is to uplift researchers like Dr. Mandal 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.


Progressing Animal Welfare

Michelson Found Animals Foundation was founded in 2005 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.


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.


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.

Thoughts on The Intangible Advantage


“What makes this book so unusual and so helpful is two-fold. First, it is expressed entirely in plain English, not ‘legalese’ or ‘patent patois’ or ‘techie talk’. Second, it connects IP rights to economic growth, job creation, development of new cures and products…

Chief Judge Paul R. Michel (retired)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Court