Gary K. Michelson

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Gary K. Michelson
Born (1949-01-14) January 14, 1949 (age 69)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Residence Los Angeles, CA
Nationality United States
Alma mater B.A. Temple University
M.D. Hahnemann Medical College
Occupation Medical device inventor / Philanthropist / Board Certified Spinal Surgeon
Net worth Increase US $ 1.8 billion (September 2018)[1]
Spouse(s) Alya Michelson
Children 3

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

Early life and education[edit]

One of four boys, Michelson was raised by his mother and grandmother. Witnessing the effects of his grandmother's spinal deformity as a boy motivated him to pursue medicine as a career, with a specialty in spine problems.[4] He attended Central High School of Philadelphia, Temple University and Hahnemann Medical College of Drexel University. He completed his 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 amassed over 100 research papers and publications to his credit.

He is of Jewish heritage.[5]

Medical innovations[edit]

Unhappy with the low success rates associated with spinal surgery procedures at the beginning of his career, he developed new technology in response, creating implants, instruments and procedures that would enable spinal surgeons to manage more spinal ailments. Implanted globally in millions of patients, "Michelson Devices" have made spinal surgery far more effective and reliable while decreasing the blood loss, incision size, risks and complications, hospital stay and overall costs compared to earlier procedures.[6] 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.[7]

In 2005, Michelson sold many of his spine related patents to Medtronic for over $1 billion,[8] placing him on the Forbes 400 list where he has since remained.[9] A legal battle with Medtronic over the origins of the patents preceded the sale. Michelson successfully cross-filed in response to Medtronic's suit against him. His defense against Medtronic's suit established a major legal precedent in 2004, governing who bears the cost of pre-trial discovery of electronic evidence.[10]


Michelson announced his intent to launch a medical philanthropic venture in a 2005 New York Times article, at that time planning to apply at least $200 million to explore and scale leading edge medical technology, like nanotechnology and stem cell research. Founded in 1995, The Gary Karlin Michelson, M.D. Charitable Foundation, Inc. was rechristened the Michelson Medical Research Foundation in 2005. With no paid officers and an initial contribution of $100 million later augmented by Michelson's add-on contributions, the nonprofit does not accept donations.[11]

After reading an article written by Sabin Vaccine Institute President Peter Hotez published in the Los Angeles Times,[12] Michelson became one of the principal supporters of the Institute's fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases. With an initial five million dollars donation giving birth to the Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative, Michelson "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."[13]

Michelson also created the Twenty Million Minds Foundation,[14] originally a comprehensive library of higher education textbooks in an open education platform now an education startup incubator,[15] and the Found Animals Foundation, a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation dedicated to animal welfare.

With a budget of 15 million dollars as of November 2013,[16] 65 full-time employees[17] and 137,000 volunteer hours to date,[18] 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 which saved more than 1,000 kittens in 2015 and the Saving Pets Challenge which raised $1 Million for animal welfare organizations nationwide.[19]

In 2008, Michelson's Found Animals foundation launched the Michelson Prize and Grants in Reproductive Biology[20] an international competition with a 25 million dollar prize that represents a unique experiment in innovation aimed at solving the problem of pet overpopulation. His goal is to encourage researchers from a wide variety of scientific fields to take on the challenge of non-surgical pet sterilization. Recognizing that interested parties may not have access to funds the research and testing would require, also offered is the companion Michelson Grants in Reproductive Biology that will provide up to $50 million in funding for promising research. The Michelson Prize seeks to make sterilization accessible and affordable worldwide and aid developing countries where this problem is even greater.[21][22]

In a program directly acknowledged by the L.A. Mayor’s office, Dr. Michelson’s Found Animals Foundation paid for all the costs of anyone who would rescue a dog or cat scheduled for euthanasia. It is estimated that Dr. Michelson has thus far devoted a total of $300 million to various causes.[23]

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.[24] [25] [26] The venue opened its doors on November 1st, 2017.[27]

In the December 2015 issue of Forbes Magazine, Gary K. 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".[28]

In February 2016, through his organization, the 20MM Michelson Foundation, Dr. Michelson released a variety of intellectual property tools. The first, via his YouTube channel, is a series of nine Intellectual Property animation shorts answering such questions as "Can I Patent That?", "Do Patents Really Promote Innovation?" or "Is It Fair Use or Infringement?" These videos are part of an upcoming free intellectual property interactive textbook and for credit college course which will include a working explanation of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.[29] Additionally, Dr. Michelson conceived of, funded, and drove the creation de novo of the first comprehensive authoritative textbook - The Intangible Advantage: Understanding Intellectual Property in the New Economy,[30] written specifically for non-lawyers. In a companion project, Dr. 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 since September 2017.[31][32][33]

In the August 2016 special issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal, Dr. Gary Michelson was listed among the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles.[34]

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Alya, and their three children.[35]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • [2017] Recipient of the 2017 Innovation Award for Technology from the Los Angeles County Medical Association.[36]
  • [2017] Recipient of the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California.[37][38]
  • [2017] L.A. County Letter of Appreciation to USC Michelson namesakes: Gary & Alya Michelson.[39][40]
  • [2015] Recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award from B'nai B'rith International for his commitment to philanthropy, humanitarian assistance and community leadership.[41]
  • [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.[42][43]
  • [2014] Inducted in the National Academy of Inventors on March 7, 2014 in recognition of exceptional accomplishments in innovation and invention to benefit society.[44][45]
  • [2011] Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 2011.[46][47]
  • [2010] Member of the board of Educational Foundation of the Intellectual Property Owners Association since July 2010.[48][49]
  • [2006] Recipient of the 2006 Paralyzed Veterans of America Award for the Outstanding Medical Research in the field of spinal disorders.[50]

Articles and speaking engagements[edit]

  • [2016] Keynote speaker at the Archer Student STEM Symposium at the Archer School for Girls[51]
  • [2013] Dr. Gary Michelson Funding The Development Of A Soil-Transmitted Helminth Vaccine Discovery Program.[52]
  • [2011] Public Advocacy as Independent Inventor for Patent Reform (featured in 'Historic Patent Reform Bill Signed Into Law' on September 21, 2011).[53]
  • [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.[54]
  • [2011] Keynote Speaker for the California Regional Independent Inventors Conference on August 12, 2011.[55][56]
  • [2011] Keynote Speaker for the 60th California State Science Fair competition in Los Angeles in May 2011.[57][58]
  • [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.[59]
  • [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).[60]


  1. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Gary Michelson September 2018
  2. ^ "Gary Michelson". Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  3. ^ "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Dr. Gary K. Michelson: Inventor and life-saver". Retrieved 5 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Forbes Israel: Jewish Billionaires - Profile of Gary Michelson April 14, 2013 (in Hebrew)
  6. ^ "Michelson Technology at Work". Medtronic. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  7. ^ Eisner, Walter (June 28, 2011). "Gary Michelson, M.D., Revisited". Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  8. ^ Pollack, Andrew (April 23, 2005). "Medtronic to Pay $1.35 Billion to Inventor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  9. ^ Whelan, David (October 6, 2008). "Animal Nut". Forbes. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  10. ^ "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. 
  11. ^ "What We Do". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  12. ^ Hotez, Peter (December 12, 2010). "Diseases we can stop, but don't". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  13. ^ "Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative [Sabin]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  14. ^ Helfand, Duke (June 5, 2011). "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  15. ^ "Michelson Runway - Incubator supporting innovations in higher education and career training". Runway / Michelson 20MM Foundation. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  16. ^ "Found Animals Foundation, Inc". Foundation Directory Online. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Found Animals Foundation, Inc". Linkedin. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  18. ^ "Volunteer, Career & Internship Opportunities". Found Animals Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  19. ^ "We're for pets, not for profit!". Found Animals Registry. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  20. ^ Grimm, David (September 18, 2009). "A Cure for Euthanasia?". Science. 325 (5947): 1490–1493. doi:10.1126/science.325_1490. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 
  21. ^ "The Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology". Michelson Prize & Grants. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Helfand, Duke (June 5, 2011). "How I Made It: Dr. Gary Michelson". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  24. ^ "USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2015-03-12. 
  25. ^ Perkins, Robert (January 13, 2014). "$50 million gift funds new building for convergent bioscience research at USC". USC News. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  26. ^ Gordon, Larry (January 13, 2014). "Surgeon and inventor gives $50 million for USC building". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  27. ^ Clay, Joanna (November 1, 2017). "USC's Michelson Hall, new center for convergent bioscience, makes its debut". USC News. Retrieved 2017-12-12. 
  28. ^ 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. 
  29. ^ "Intellectual Property - Educational Video Series". The Michelson 20MM Foundation. YouTube. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  30. ^ "Innovation Lessons From a Billionaire| Patents & Patent Law". | Patents & Patent Law. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2016-06-11. 
  31. ^ "Michelson Intellectual Property (IP) Information". Michelson IP. Retrieved 2016-06-11. 
  32. ^ "Archer Student Stem Symposium — Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gary K. Michelson, M.D." Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  33. ^ Riggott, Julie (September 26, 2017). "Trade secrets need love, too: USC Marshall offers entrepreneur's guide to intellectual property". USC News. 
  34. ^ "The Los Angeles 500: Dr. Gary Michelson – Chairman: Twenty Million Minds Foundation, Found Animals Foundation, Michelson Medical Research Foundation". Los Angeles Business Journal. August 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  35. ^ "Alya Michelson [Bio]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  36. ^ "Recap of This Year's Los Angeles Healthcare Awards". Los Angeles County Medical Association. November 6, 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-12. 
  37. ^ "Honorary Degree Recipients". Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  38. ^ 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. 
  39. ^ 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. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ "Jewish Journal: Dr. Gary K. Michelson – Inventor and life-saver". B'nai B'rith International. March 31, 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  42. ^ Jones, Christopher Edward (June 25, 2015). "SABIN Humanitarian Award 2015: Gary K. Michelson". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  43. ^ Toves, Kelly (March 25, 2015). "Dr. Gary Michelson Receives Albert B. Sabin Humanitarian Award". SABIN Vaccine Institute. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  44. ^ "Current NAI Fellows". National Academy of Inventors. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  45. ^ "Gary K Michelson; National Academy of Inventors – Fellow Induction [2014-03-07]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  46. ^ "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. 
  47. ^ Quinn, Gene (May 5, 2011). "Celebrating Heroes of Invention at the Temple of Innovation". IP Watchdog. Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  48. ^ "IPO Foundation elects Foreman, Michel and Michelson to Board". Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. July 23, 2010. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  49. ^ "IP Pros Named to IPO Education Foundation". Inventors Digest. July 23, 2010. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  50. ^ "Gary K. Michelson; Honor in Health-Care Research [Paralyzed Veterans of America]". Michelson Medical Research Foundation. September 12, 2006. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  51. ^ "Archer Student Stem Symposium — Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gary K. Michelson, M.D." Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  52. ^ 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. 
  53. ^ Eisner, Walter (September 21, 2011). "Historic Patent Reform Bill Signed Into Law". Orthopedics this Week. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  54. ^ Maulsby, Richard (October 2011). "President Obama Signs America Invents Act". Inventors Eye [USPTO]. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  55. ^ 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. 
  56. ^ 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. 
  57. ^ 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. 
  58. ^ California State Center (April 26, 2011). "Student Scientists to Compete for Top Honors at 60th California State Science Fair". QualityDigest. Retrieved 2016-05-04. 
  59. ^ Michelson, Gary (February 25, 2011). "Gary Michelson's Letter to Congress Supporting Patent Reform". IP Watchdog. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  60. ^ 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]