Gary K. Michelson

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Gary K. Michelson
Gary K. Michelson at the 2016 Michelson Found Animals Gala.jpg
Born (1949-01-14) January 14, 1949 (age 73)
Alma materTemple University
Hahnemann Medical College
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Medical Scientist
  • Philanthropist
Spouse(s)Alya Michelson

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

Early life and education[edit]

Michelson and his three brothers were raised in Philadelphia by his mother and grandmother, whose struggles with syringomyelia inspired his interest in spinal ailments.[4][5][6] After graduating Central High School of Philadelphia in 1966,[7] he attended Temple University and Hahnemann Medical College of Drexel University, until finishing his medical residency in orthopedic surgery at Hahnemann Medical Hospital in 1979. Michelson then completed his 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.[8]

Medical innovations & related legal battles[edit]

Seeing the low success rates associated with spinal surgery procedures early in his career,[9][10] Michelson developed new implants, instruments and procedures for spinal surgery. These technologies, often recognized in the medical profession as "Michelson Devices", assist in surgical procedures by decreasing blood loss, incision size, and addressing other critical factors.[11][12] Michelson is the sole credited inventor on over 950 issued or pending patents worldwide related to the treatment of spinal disorders.[13][14]

In 2005, Michelson sold many of his spine-related patents to Medtronic for $1.35 billion,[15] placing him on the Forbes 400 list.[16] A legal battle with Medtronic over the origins of the patents preceded the sale. In 2004, Michelson cross-filed in response to Medtronic's 2001 suit, and was awarded financial damages for both lawsuits by the jury.[17] 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.[18]


The Gary Karlin Michelson, M.D. Charitable Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1995 through a $100 million contribution from Dr. Michelson (it was later renamed the Michelson Medical Research Foundation in 2005).[15] The nonprofit does not accept donations.[19]

Michelson Center for Public Policy[edit]

The Michelson Center for Public Policy endorsed a 2021 bill from Florida senator Vern Buchanan to end an FDA requirement that animal testing be used to determine a drug's efficacy on humans.[20]

Michelson Found Animals Foundation[edit]

In 2005, Michelson launched the Found Animals Foundation, a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation dedicated to animal welfare.[21] In response to Hurricane Katrina, the foundation created the Found Animals Registry, the first free national pet microchipping registry.[21]Found Animals also performs surveys of pet owners, to study industry trends and owner/pet relationships.[22]

In 2008, the foundation launched the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology[23] in 2008, an international competition aimed at reducing shelter euthanasia by controlling pet overpopulation, as well as providing funding for non-surgical sterilant research.[24] In 2020, the foundation launched the Better Neighbor Project to support low income and homeless pet owners with food and veterinary services.[25] In 2021, the Found Animals Registry was acquired by Pethealth Inc. (a subsidiary of Fairfax Financial).[26]The foundation is also on the board of the Best Friends Animal Society's No-Kill Los Angeles initiative.[27]

Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property[edit]

Dr. Michelson was a contributing author to the free 2016 textbook The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy, written for non-lawyers and undergraduate students to better understand patents, copyrights, and trademarks.[28]In 2016, the new Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property was formed, to provide free intellectual property-related educational resources.[29]

Michelson Medical Research Foundation[edit]

Formed in 2005, the Michelson Medical Research Foundation aims to promote innovation in medicine and science.[30]Its initiatives include the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience.[31][32], and the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington.[33]

In 2017, Michelson and his wife Alya launched the Michelson Prize, to support medically relevant research by scientists under the age of 36. The 2020 Michelson Prizes were awarded to Danika Hill, research fellow at Australia's Monash University, and Michael Birnbaum, assistant professor at MIT.[34]

Michelson Neglected Disease Initiative[edit]

In 2013, he became a principal supporter of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, giving birth to the Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative to provide access to affordable treatments for tropical diseases.[35][36]

Michelson Twenty Million Minds Foundation[edit]

In 2011, Michelson created the Twenty Million Minds Foundation (named for the number of students enrolled in higher education in the United States), to make college more affordable by underwriting a library of free online textbooks.[37]In 2016, Michelson publicly released a variety of intellectual property tools through the organization.[29]

The Spark Grants platform was launched by 20MM in March 2019, designed to truncate the lengthy grant-funding process.[29] The foundation partnered with California for the first California Digital Divide Challenge in 2020, offering a $1 million prize for the best proposal to expand broadband access in the state.[38]


Since 2017, Michelson has funded and successfully advanced legislation for pet-related laws, in partnership with Social Compassion in Legislation. Those include:

  • A bill ending the practice of pet shops sourcing animals from out of state farms, and AB 485, a companion bill requiring all pet shops in California to source their animals from local shelters and rescue groups.[39]
  • The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetic Act, banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.[40]
  • The Circus Cruelty Prevention Act, banning the use of animals in California circus shows.[41]
  • California Law AB 1260, which ends the practice of commercial fur trapping, and bans the sale of products made from the hides of exotic animals. The bill was designed to thwart an attempt by others to allow the sale of alligator and crocodile products in the state.[42]
  • California Senate Bill 573, requiring shelters to microchip all reclaimed or adopted cats and dogs.[43][44]

Personal life[edit]

Michelson lives in Los Angeles with his wife Alya, and their three children.

In the December 2015 issue of Forbes magazine, Michelson was featured as one of "10 People with Big Ideas to Change the World".[45]

Published works[edit]

Academic books[edit]

  • (2016) The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy (contributing author)[46]

Selected articles[edit]

  • (2020) "America's Needed Medical Revolution" - US News & World Report [1]
  • (2020) "Transform higher education - make textbooks free" - EdSource [2]
  • (2021) "To vaccinate our economy, boost support for the NIH" - Fortune[3]
  • (2021) "Microchipping your pet's doesn't have to be expensive. Paying for registration is a scam." - USA Today [4]
  • (2022) "Accelerating the Pace of Innovation for the Greater Good" - Technology & Innovation, Vol. 22 No. 2 [5]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Forbes profile: Gary Michelson". Forbes. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Gary Michelson". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  3. ^ Helfand, Duke (2011-06-05). "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Dr. Gary Michelson funding the developement [sic] of a soil-transmitted helminth vaccine discovery program – Jewish Business News". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  5. ^ "Dr. Gary K. Michelson: Inventor and life-saver". Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  6. ^ "C-Suite Quarterly Magazine Q4 2018/19". CSQ C-Suite Quarterly Magazine. December 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  7. ^ "Notable Alumni – Central High School". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  8. ^ Forbes Israel: Jewish Billionaires - Profile of Gary Michelson April 14, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  9. ^ 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. S2CID 707171.
  10. ^ Tuite, Gerald F.; et al. (1994). "Outcome after laminectomy for lumbar spinal stenosis: Part I: Clinical correlations". Journal of Neurosurgery. 81.5 (1994) (5): 699–706. doi:10.3171/jns.1994.81.5.0699. PMID 7755690.
  11. ^ "Gary K. Michelson Inventions, Patents and Patent Applications - Justia Patents Search". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  12. ^ "Michelson Technology at Work". Medtronic. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  13. ^ Eisner, Walter (June 28, 2011). "Gary Michelson, M.D., Revisited". Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  14. ^ Gammon, Katharine. "Gary Michelson: Man with a Plan". USC News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  15. ^ a b Pollack, Andrew (April 23, 2005). "Medtronic to Pay $1.35 Billion to Inventor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  16. ^ Whelan, David (October 6, 2008). "Animal Nut". Forbes. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  17. ^ "Big Suits: Michelson vs. Medtronic | News | Kirkland & Ellis LLP". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  18. ^ "5 Costly Moments in Electronic Discovery: A rundown on the precedents that shaped the landscape for litigators". The National Law Journal. February 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
  19. ^ "Michelson Medical Research Foundation Inc. | Charity Navigator Profile". Retrieved 2021-04-07.
  20. ^ "Buchanan announces bipartisan legislation to end FDA animal testing". ABC 7 Sarasota, FL. Retrieved 2021-12-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ a b "Michelson Found Animals Names Yates New Executive Director". Pet Age. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  23. ^ Grimm, David (September 18, 2009). "A Cure for Euthanasia?". Science. 325 (5947): 1490–1493. doi:10.1126/science.325_1490. PMID 19762620.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Michelson Found Animals shares 15 years of accomplishments". Retrieved 2021-04-07.
  26. ^ Effendi, Mashaal (2021-07-30). "Pethealth acquiring microchip registry operations". Oakville News. Retrieved 2021-12-13.
  27. ^ "Best Friends Animal Society's No-Kill LA Initiative Becomes Reality at LA City Shelters". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  28. ^ "Innovation Lessons From a Billionaire| Patents & Patent Law". | Patents & Patent Law. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  29. ^ a b c "Operation IP IQ". Inventors Digest. 2019-07-10. Retrieved 2021-12-22.
  30. ^ "Dr. Gary K. Michelson: The Benevolent Catalyst". C-Suite Quarterly. December 28, 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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. ^ Clay, Joanna (November 1, 2017). "USC's Michelson Hall, new center for convergent bioscience, makes its debut". USC News. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  33. ^ "UW Institute for Protein Design 2017 Report" (PDF). University of Washington. Retrieved 1 March 2022.
  34. ^ "2020 Michelson Prizes Support Groundbreaking Research by Young Scientists". Human Vaccines Project. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  35. ^ Hotez, Peter (December 12, 2010). "Diseases we can stop, but don't". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  36. ^ Hecht, Albert. "Dr. Gary Michelson funding the developement of a soil-transmitted helminth vaccine discovery program". Retrieved 2022-01-27.
  37. ^ Helfand, Duke (June 5, 2011). "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  38. ^ Senior, Andre (2021-02-02). "State superintendent announces $1M prize for innovator to close digital divide". KTVU FOX 2. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  39. ^ "Bill Text - AB-485 Pet store operators: dogs, cats, and rabbits". Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  40. ^ "California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act Takes Effect". Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  41. ^ "California Bill Prohibits Circuses From Using Wild Animals". Green Matters. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  42. ^ "California outlaws new fur sales as Gavin Newsom signs first-in-the-nation ban". The Mercury News. 2019-10-12. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
  43. ^ "Bill Text - SB-573 Dogs and cats: microchip implants". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  44. ^ "Breaking News: Governor Newsom Signs SB 573 Pet Microchipping Bill into Law!". Social Compassion In Legislation. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  45. ^ Brown, Abram (November 23, 2015). "Buffett, Ackman, Milken, Michael J. Fox! 10 People With Big Ideas To Change the World". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  46. ^ Kline, David; Krupka, Robert G.; Michelson, Gary K.; Bundy, Kerry L.; Kahnke, Randall E. (2016-04-01). The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy. Michelson 20MM Foundation. ISBN 978-0-9975426-2-2.
  47. ^ "Gary K. Michelson; Spinal Surgical Devices: US Patent No. 6,770,074 [National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction]". National Inventors Hall of Fame. May 4, 2011. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  48. ^ Quinn, Gene (May 5, 2011). "Celebrating Heroes of Invention at the Temple of Innovation". IP Watchdog. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
  49. ^ "Current NAI Fellows". National Academy of Inventors. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  50. ^ Toves, Kelly (March 25, 2015). "Dr. Gary Michelson Receives Albert B. Sabin Humanitarian Award". SABIN Vaccine Institute. Retrieved 2016-01-26.
  51. ^ "Jewish Journal: Dr. Gary K. Michelson – Inventor and life-saver". B'nai B'rith International. March 31, 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
  52. ^ "Recap of This Year's Los Angeles Healthcare Awards". Los Angeles County Medical Association. November 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  53. ^ "2018 Visionaries Awards in Philanthropy, Art, & Culture". CSQ / C-Suite Quarterly Magazine. February 5, 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  54. ^ "Inner City Law Center's 2022 Awards Luncheon". Retrieved 2022-06-02.

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