Gary K. Michelson

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Gary K. Michelson
Born (1949-01-14) January 14, 1949 (age 70)
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, US
Alma materB.A. Temple University
M.D. Hahnemann Medical College
OccupationMedical device inventor / Philanthropist / Board Certified Spinal Surgeon
Net worthUS $ 1.7 billion (November 2019)[1]
Spouse(s)Alya Michelson

Gary K. Michelson (born January 14, 1949) is an American billionaire businessman, orthopedic spinal surgeon, inventor, and philanthropist.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Michelson and his three brothers were raised by his mother and grandmother.[4] He attended Central High School of Philadelphia, Temple University and Hahnemann Medical College of Drexel University and completed medical residency in orthopedic surgery at Hahnemann Medical Hospital, before completing fellowship training in spinal surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in a joint program between Baylor University and the University of Texas. He was a practicing spinal surgeon for over 25 years before retiring from private practice to focus on philanthropy.

He is of Jewish heritage.[5]

Medical innovations & related legal battles[edit]

Seeing the low success rates associated with spinal surgery procedures[6][7] on the market during his early career, he developed new technology, creating implants, instruments and procedures that enabled spinal surgeons to manage more spinal ailments. Implanted globally in millions of patients, "Michelson Devices" have made spinal surgery effective and reliable by decreasing the blood loss, incision size, risks and complications, hospital stay and overall costs compared to earlier procedures.[8] He has over 340 U.S. Patents on instruments, methods and devices for advances in spinal and orthopedic surgery and over 950 issued or pending patents worldwide for instruments, operative procedures, and medical devices related to the treatment of spinal disorders.[9][10]

In 2005, Michelson sold many of his spine related patents to Medtronic for over $1 billion,[11] placing him on the Forbes 400[12] list where he has since remained.[13] A legal battle with Medtronic over the origins of the patents preceded the sale. Michelson cross-filed in response to Medtronic's suit and was awarded financial damages for both lawsuits by the jury. The legal defense against Medtronic's suit established a major legal precedent in 2004, governing who bears the cost of pre-trial discovery of electronic evidence.[14]


Michelson announced his intent to launch a medical philanthropic venture in a 2005 New York Times article.[15] Founded in 1995, The Gary Karlin Michelson, M.D. Charitable Foundation, Inc. was renamed the Michelson Medical Research Foundation in 2005. The nonprofit does not accept donations.[16]

After reading an article written by Sabin Vaccine Institute President Peter Hotez published in the Los Angeles Times,[17] Michelson became one of the principal supporters of the Institute's fight against neglected tropical diseases, giving birth to the Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative.[18] Michelson said he "felt compelled to support efforts to develop a vaccine against the four most devastating parasitic worm infections because more than one billion innocent people, many of them small children, are unnecessarily plagued by these neglected diseases."[19]

Michelson created the Twenty Million Minds Foundation,[20] originally a comprehensive library of higher education textbooks in an open education platform and now an education startup incubator,[21] and the Found Animals Foundation,[22] a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation dedicated to animal welfare.[23]

Found Animals provides no cost spay and neuter services to low income households, a grant program supporting spay/neuter and surrender prevention programs, a kitten foster program and the Saving Pets Challenge which raises money for animal welfare organizations nationwide.[24]

In 2008, Michelson's Found Animals foundation launched the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology[25] an international competition with a monetary prize aimed at solving the problem of pet overpopulation. Researchers from a wide variety of scientific fields took on the challenge of non-surgical pet sterilization. Recognizing that interested parties may not have access to funds the research and testing would require, the companion Michelson Grants in Reproductive Biology[26] would provide limited funding for research. The Michelson Prize seeks to make sterilization accessible and affordable worldwide and aid developing countries.[27][28]

In a program directly acknowledged by the L.A. Mayor’s office, Michelson’s Found Animals Foundation paid for the costs of anyone who would rescue a dog or cat scheduled for euthanasia.[29]

In January 2014 it was announced that Michelson gifted $50 million to the University of Southern California for the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.[30][31][32] The venue opened its doors on November 1, 2017.[33]

In February 2016, through his organization, the 20MM Michelson Foundation, Michelson released a variety of intellectual property tools including a series of videos which foreshadowed the publication of a proper intellectual property textbook.[34]

Released on May 22, 2016, the free comprehensive textbook The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy, devoted to intellectual property topics and written specifically for non-lawyers and undergraduate students, includes a working explanation of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.[35]

In 2017 Dr Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson, through the MMRF launched the Young Researchers Prizes, The Human Vaccines Project[36] team which awards are $150,000. each, to specifically support out of the box, high risk - high return, medically relevant research by scientists under the age of 36.

In a companion project, Michelson has created a complete undergraduate college course in Intellectual Property, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Intellectual Property, which has been taught at the USC Marshall School of Business via its Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Santa Monica College since August 2017.[37][38][39][40]

On October 30, 2017, via a kick-off event which took place at the University of Southern California, Leveraging Intellectual Property In Today's Knowledge Economy, the new Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property was announced. The new institute oversees the earlier Intangible Advantage IP course and provides resources for both educators and students of the program, it also offers the option of becoming an ambassador for the institute.[41]

On October 24, 2018, the Hacking IP: Considerations for Startups and Entrepreneurs seminar, the first event in a year-long multi-city program, took place in Downtown Los Angeles and featured such ambassadors as Nathan Khalil, Benjamin Kuo, Carmen Palafox and Thomas Peistrup.[42]

On January 18, 2019, the California Spay and Neuter License Plate Fund, a non profit organization founded in 2010 by Judie Mancuso, Dr. Gary K. Michelson, actor Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely Shaye Smith, announced an initial round of grants benefiting low income families in need of spay or neuter for their pet.[43][44]

Those grants, funded by the sale of the California Pet Lover's License Plate whose artwork was authored by Pierce Brosnan, will see $330,000 dispersed in 2019. The plate, available since 2013[45] through the California Department of Motor Vehicles,[46] has collected over 1.1 million dollars to date towards targeted spay and neuter programs.


Social Compassion in Legislation calls for Audit of CDFA and Pet Lover's Plate Fund[47].

Governor Newsom signs Circus Cruelty Prevention Act.[48]

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Alya, and their three children.[49]

In the August 2016 special issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal, Michelson was listed among the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles.[50]

In the December 2015 issue of Forbes Magazine, Michelson was featured alongside Warren Buffett, William A. Ackman, Michael Milken, Michael J. Fox as one of "10 People with Big Ideas to Change the World".[51]

In December 2018, Michelson appeared on the cover of CSQ C-Suite Quarterly Magazine and was awarded the Visionary of the Year Award in Philanthropy. The award ceremony took place in New York City on February 5, 2019.[52][53]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • [2018] Recipient of the 2018 Visionary of the Year Award in Philanthropy from CSQ / C-Suite Quarterly Magazine. [54]
  • [2017] Recipient of the 2017 Innovation Award for Technology from the Los Angeles County Medical Association.[55]
  • [2017] Recipient of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California.[56][57]
  • [2017] L.A. County Letter of Appreciation to USC Michelson namesakes: Gary & Alya Michelson.[58][59]
  • [2015] Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award from B'nai B'rith International for his commitment to philanthropy, humanitarian assistance and community leadership.[60]
  • [2015] Recipient of the 2015 Albert. B Sabin Humanitarian Award in recognition of his extraordinary philanthropy and commitment toward the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through high-level advocacy and vaccine research and development.[61][62]
  • [2014] Inducted in the National Academy of Inventors on March 7, 2014 in recognition of exceptional accomplishments in innovation and invention to benefit society.[63][64]
  • [2011] Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 2011.[65][66]
  • [2010] Member of the board of Educational Foundation of the Intellectual Property Owners Association since July 2010.[67][68]
  • [2006] Recipient of the 2006 Paralyzed Veterans of America Award for the Outstanding Medical Research in the field of spinal disorders.[69]

Articles and speaking engagements[edit]

  • [2016] Keynote speaker at the Archer Student STEM Symposium at the Archer School for Girls[70]
  • [2013] Dr. Gary Michelson Funding The Development Of A Soil-Transmitted Helminth Vaccine Discovery Program.[71]
  • [2011] Public Advocacy as Independent Inventor for Patent Reform (featured in 'Historic Patent Reform Bill Signed Into Law' on September 21, 2011).[72]
  • [2011] Invited by Barack Obama, United States President, to the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act Signing Ceremony on September 16, 2011 at the White House Garden.[73]
  • [2011] Keynote Speaker for the California Regional Independent Inventors Conference on August 12, 2011.[74][75]
  • [2011] Keynote Speaker for the 60th California State Science Fair competition in Los Angeles in May 2011.[76][77]
  • [2011] Open letter to the United States Senate on Patent Reform, read in the Congressional Record on February 28, 2011 by the Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.[78]
  • [2010] Invited Participant at the United States Patent and Trademark Office Forum on Quality Control in the U.S.P.T.O. Patent examination process on May 10, 2010 (Central Public Library, Los Angeles, CA).[79]


  1. ^ Forbes profile: Gary Michelson 5 November 2019
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  5. ^ Forbes Israel: Jewish Billionaires - Profile of Gary Michelson April 14, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  6. ^ Javid, M. J.; Hadar, E. J. (July 1998). "Long-term follow-up review of patients who underwent laminectomy for lumbar stenosis: a prospective study". Journal of Neurosurgery. 89 (1): 1–7. doi:10.3171/jns.1998.89.1.0001. ISSN 0022-3085. PMID 9647165.
  7. ^ Tuite, Gerald F.; et al. (1994). "Outcome after laminectomy for lumbar spinal stenosis: Part I: Clinical correlations". Journal of Neurosurgery. 81.5 (1994): 699–706.
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  21. ^ "Michelson Runway - Incubator supporting innovations in higher education and career training". Runway / Michelson 20MM Foundation. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  22. ^ "Pet Microchipping & Adoption | Michelson Found Animals Foundation". Retrieved 2018-10-08.
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  25. ^ Grimm, David (September 18, 2009). "A Cure for Euthanasia?". Science. 325 (5947): 1490–1493. doi:10.1126/science.325_1490. PMID 19762620.
  26. ^ "Michelson Grants - Michelson Prize Grants | Found Animals Foundation | Research Grants". Michelson Prize Grants | Found Animals Foundation | Research Grants. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  27. ^ "The Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology". Michelson Prize & Grants. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  28. ^ Peters, Sharon L. (October 15, 2008). "Inventor Michelson offers a $75 million prize in a sterilization innovation contest, to create more effective and wide spread spaying and neutering of pets, with the ultimate goal of curbing animal overpopulation". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  29. ^ Helfand, Duke (June 5, 2011). "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  30. ^ "USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  31. ^ Perkins, Robert (January 13, 2014). "$50 million gift funds new building for convergent bioscience research at USC". USC News. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  32. ^ Gordon, Larry (January 13, 2014). "Surgeon and inventor gives $50 million for USC building". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  33. ^ Clay, Joanna (November 1, 2017). "USC's Michelson Hall, new center for convergent bioscience, makes its debut". USC News. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
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  38. ^ Riggott, Julie (September 26, 2017). "Trade secrets need love, too: USC Marshall offers entrepreneur's guide to intellectual property". USC News.
  39. ^ "SMC Develops Intellectual Property Curriculum for Community Colleges to Promote Entrepreneurship". Santa Monica College. October 27, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  40. ^ "Michelson 20MM Foundation to Partner with the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding on IP Education Initiatives". The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU). August 21, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  41. ^ "An Engaging Discussion Kicks Off The Michelson Institute For Intellectual Property". PR Newswire/CISION. November 1, 2017. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  42. ^ "Intellectual Property Awareness Program for Entrepreneurs Kicks Off In L.A." GlobalNewsWire. October 24, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  43. ^ Social Compassion in Legislation (January 18, 2019). "Specialty License Plate Featuring Pierce Brosnan's Artwork Will Now Save Lives". L.A. Biz. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  44. ^ Mancuso, Judie (January 18, 2019). "California Spay & Neuter License Plate Featuring Actor Pierce Brosnan's Artwork Will Now Save The Lives Of Animals Throughout The State". Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  45. ^ Allen, Jennifer (September 24, 2013). "California Pet Lover's License Plate Program now on The Road at The DMV". State of California Department of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  46. ^ "Here is How to Order the Plate". California Department of Consumer Affairs - Veterinary Medical Board. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  47. ^ "Pet Lover's Plate Audit". SCIL.
  49. ^ "Alya Michelson [Bio]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
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  56. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  57. ^ USC (2017-05-12). "Gary K. Michelson; USC Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (University of Southern California's 134th Commencement Ceremony)". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  58. ^ Los Angeles County (2017-11-01). "@mridleythomas presents a letter of appreciation from @CountyofLA to #USCMichelson namesakes Gary and Alya Michelson". twitter. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  59. ^ Los Angeles County (2017-11-01). "Los Angeles County Chairman of the Board Mark Ridley-Thomas hands out an official Los Angeles County Letter of Appreciation dedicated to the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience namesakes Gary K. Michelson & Alya Michelson. (Credit: USC)". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
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  67. ^ "IPO Foundation elects Foreman, Michel and Michelson to Board". Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. July 23, 2010. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  68. ^ "IP Pros Named to IPO Education Foundation". Inventors Digest. July 23, 2010. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  69. ^ "Gary K. Michelson; Honor in Health-Care Research [Paralyzed Veterans of America]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. September 12, 2006. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  70. ^ "Archer Student Stem Symposium — Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gary K. Michelson, M.D." Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  71. ^ Hecht, Albert (July 18, 2013). "Dr. Gary Michelson Funding The Development Of A Soil-Transmitted Helminth Vaccine Discovery Program". Jewish Business News. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
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  74. ^ Kirik, Cathie. "National Inventor Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Gary Michelson will be on hand to provide practical advice and information for novice and seasoned inventors". Inventors Eye [USPTO]. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  75. ^ Pappas, Peter (August 9, 2011). "Congressman Adam Schiff to Speak at USPTO's California Regional Inventor Conference in Pasadena, Aug. 12-13". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  76. ^ California State Center (April 15, 2011). "Young Scientists From Across the State Will Compete for Top Honors at the 60th California State Science Fair". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  77. ^ California State Center (April 26, 2011). "Student Scientists to Compete for Top Honors at 60th California State Science Fair". QualityDigest. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  78. ^ Michelson, Gary (February 25, 2011). "Gary Michelson's Letter to Congress Supporting Patent Reform". IP Watchdog. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  79. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office (May 10, 2010). "USPTO-PPAC Quality Taskforce Roundtable: Enhancement of the Quality of the Patents". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-04.

External links[edit]