Charlie Dunlop gave the commencement address during the biological sciences graduation ceremony. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Irvine, Calif., June 15, 2024 — The University of California, Irvine has received a $50 million donation from Orange County biotech entrepreneur Charlie Dunlop for the School of Biological Sciences. Dean Frank LaFerla announced the gift before thousands of graduating students, faculty and family supporters at today’s school commencement, where Dunlop was the featured speaker.

His gift will create an endowed fund that will provide unrestricted support for academic and research activities within the school.

“This gift supports UC Irvine’s belief that human and environmental health are integrated and that well-being requires an evidence-based approach that engages all disciplines in the School of Biological Sciences,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Charlie Dunlop’s dedication to this vision and his deep generosity will help UC Irvine set a standard that other biology programs in the U.S. can follow.”

“I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Charlie Dunlop for his extraordinary generosity and enduring commitment to the advancement of the life sciences and the betterment of our society,” said LaFerla, the Dr. Lionel and Fay Ng Dean’s Chair in Biological Sciences. “Thanks to him, the school will now enter a new era of discovery and excellence. Together, our students, faculty and all members of our biological sciences community will embark on a journey of innovation and impact.”

In honor of Dunlop’s transformative contributions and pioneering spirit in biology and medicine, LaFerla announced the renaming of the school to the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences, setting an inspiring example for future students to innovate and apply groundbreaking discoveries.

About Charlie Dunlop

Dunlop is one of the leading biotech scientists and entrepreneurs in Orange County. Raised in Orange County and a graduate of UC San Diego, he founded Ambry Genetics in 1999 in a small office above a Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop after raising about $500,000 from friends and family.

The company became a pioneer in genetic testing and is the first in the world to offer such tests as hereditary cancer panels and clinical exome sequencing. Additionally, Dunlop championed the open sharing of genetic data. This openness has revolutionized the industry and catalyzed advancements in health sciences globally. During his time at Ambry, Dunlop found UC Irvine to be a valuable source of scientific personnel, regularly hiring biological sciences graduates. Dunlop was president and chairman of the board of Ambry Genetics until it was sold to Konica Minolta in 2017.

“UC Irvine is a huge asset to California, to the community and to Irvine,” Dunlop said. “It would have been impossible to build a business like Ambry without UC Irvine and the higher education system in California, so for me to give back to the system that produced me and most of Ambry’s employees seems like the right thing to do.”

Dunlop is also a member of the School of Biological Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council and was also the featured speaker at the school’s 2016 commencement.

In 2007, Dunlop helped start the Mauli Ola Foundation, which provides hope and confidence to individuals living with genetic diseases. Harnessing the restorative powers of the ocean, the foundation introduced surfing and other ocean-based activities as natural therapies. Dunlop had read a landmark article in The New England Journal of Medicine about the healing properties of saline on those with cystic fibrosis. An avid surfer, he learned that people with cystic fibrosis get actual relief and treatment from being in the ocean, which led Dunlop to combine his professional and personal passions to create the foundation.

“By himself and through the company he founded, Ambry Genetics, Charlie has been incredibly generous to UC Irvine, and we are proud and excited to name the School of Biological Sciences in recognition of his transformational gift,” said LaFerla, who’s also a Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior. “As a lifelong surfer, Charlie fully understands and is very supportive of our school’s mission of ‘mind, body, world’ – that to have a healthy mind and body, we need to have a healthy planet. He exemplifies this in his work and how he lives.”

About the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences

The School of Biological Sciences was one of the original divisions of UC Irvine when the campus opened in 1965. Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. recruited a visionary and innovative leader, Edward A. Steinhaus, as the founding dean, and he organized the school based on levels of analysis rather than on taxonomy, which had been the common practice. He rationalized that greater advances would result from clustering faculty studying similar biological processes as opposed to grouping individuals studying similar organisms. Revolutionary at the time, this organizational structure has become almost universally adopted at universities worldwide.

With over 4,000 undergraduates and 300 graduate students, the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences is currently one of the largest academic units at UC Irvine. Multidisciplinary research and academic opportunities exist in the areas of cancer and infectious diseases, developmental biology and genetics, environmental and evolutionary studies, mechanisms of gene expression, neurodegeneration, learning and memory disorders, structural biology, stem cell therapies, and science education.

“My focus is biology because it is the kind of science where dedication at the bench translates directly to success,” Dunlop said. “My experiences with children’s hospitals reaffirm the critical importance of our science. Whether aiding sick patients, supporting ecosystems or conducting basic research, the advancement of our field is vital. This is why I have chosen to make this contribution to UC Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences.”

About UC Irvine’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UC Irvine. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UC Irvine seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UC Irvine has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UC Irvine, visit

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