Gift propels a new Stanford program designed to help entrepreneurs make an impact

Longtime donor Li Ka-shing also provides support for leading faculty members.

The Li Ka Shing Learning and Knowledge Center on the Stanford Medicine campus. 
Courtesy of the Li Ka Shing Foundation

The Li Ka Shing Foundation has provided a significant gift to Stanford University for a multidisciplinary initiative aimed at supporting resilience and well-being among aspiring entrepreneurs.

The goal of the Stanford Initiative for Entrepreneurs’ Resilience and Well-Being (SIER) is to understand and promote the traits that define successful entrepreneurs, especially in health science and technology. New learning programs will support not only participants’ entrepreneurial success, but also their mental health and well-being as they tackle difficult leadership roles. Of particular interest is understanding how and why women and people from underrepresented communities are challenged as entrepreneurs.

In addition, the Li Ka Shing Foundation is providing generous support to advance the work of two pioneering Stanford bioengineers. Together, the gifts for SIER and the faculty members total $15 million.

The foundation is named for Hong Kong entrepreneur and global philanthropist Li Ka-shing, a longtime friend to Stanford  who made the foundational gift for the construction of the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, which opened in 2010 and is today the heart of the medical school.

“We are deeply grateful to Li Ka-shing for his historic and ongoing support to advance innovation and improve teaching, the student experience, and health care at Stanford,” said Stanford University President Richard Saller. “His contributions provide profound benefits to so many in our own community and well beyond.”

Li said, “This new initiative at Stanford seeks to unlock critical pathways for transformative technologies to scale and benefit the world at large, and I am especially pleased this gift reaffirms my lifetime pursuit in support of the good of science, where innovations become inspiring novel solutions in the hands of successful entrepreneurs.”

Helping a wider spectrum of entrepreneurs

Silicon Valley, and Stanford University, are well known as training grounds for many of the nation’s most successful innovators. Nonetheless, just as with the startup process, many entrepreneurs fail to launch at various stages of the innovation journey. SIER is designed to shed light on the entrepreneurs. By expanding the work of the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, SIER will enable researchers to examine the reasons some entrepreneurs are resilient and ultimately achieve their goals, while others are unsuccessful.

SIER participants will be guided by faculty and staff from the Stanford University School of Medicine, School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Business, as well as industry mentors.

Alan Yeung, MD, the Li Ka Shing Professor in Cardiology and emeritus chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine, serves on SIER’s initial governance committee.

“The potential for this initiative is really exciting. Societies, businesses and science itself thrive when more individuals with varied backgrounds are able to become successful entrepreneurs and bring different ideas to bear on problem solving and innovation,” Yeung said. “If SIER is successful in developing strategies that can help a wider spectrum of entrepreneurs to succeed, we will share our ideas broadly with other programs worldwide.”    

Advancing game-changing innovations in health science

In addition to helping prepare the next generation of innovators, gifts from the Li Ka Shing Foundation are supporting the work of Stanford bioengineers Michael Fischbach and Stanley Qi.

Michael Fischbach, PhD, a professor of bioengineering, is the Liu (Liao) Family Professor and directs the Stanford Microbiome Therapies Initiative (MITI), a partnership between Sarafan ChEM-H and the Department of Bioengineering with the goal of understanding and manipulating microbes that live on and inside humans to develop new therapeutics.

Funding from the Li Ka Shing Foundation will help enable Fischbach and his team to prototype new therapies that employ skin bacteria as topical treatments for a range of immune-related diseases.

Stanley Qi, PhD, is an associate professor of bioengineering and an institute scholar in Stanford’s Sarafan ChEM-H. Previous support from the Li Ka Shing Foundation has helped Qi’s team pursue advances in the groundbreaking genome engineering technology known as CRISPR. These have included the development of a “mini” CRISPR system, whose smaller size makes it easier to deliver to patients and execute gene therapy treatment for addressing diverse ailments, including muscular dystrophy, liver diseases and blindness.

Support from the Li Ka Shing Foundation is set now to advance synthetic neuroscience research in Qi’s lab. This will enable the development of innovative technologies focused on the safe and efficient delivery of therapeutic molecules for genetic and epigenetic editing in the brain. This research has the potential to offer new gene therapy strategies to tackle a variety of formidable neurological genetic diseases that have been beyond the scope of treatment due to technological limitations.      

“Michael Fischbach and Stanley Qi are both making extraordinary contributions in bioengineering and neurobiology, with the possibility of huge benefits for human health,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor for the Dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at Stanford University. “We so appreciate everyone at the Li Ka Shing Foundation for their profound dedication to funding visionary work like theirs, as well as initiatives like SIER that provide such meaningful opportunities for our students.”

The Stanford Initiative for Entrepreneurs’ Resilience and Well-Being is the most recent of many ways that the Li Ka Shing Foundation advances education, innovation and patient care at Stanford University. The foundation supports a wide range of projects, including medical research, international fellowships, surgical training, faculty support, an endowed professorship and the purchase of life-saving therapeutic equipment.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

2023 ISSUE 3

Exploring ways AI is applied to health care