Oracle Co-Founder/CEO Larry Ellison and Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey team with Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen Puliafito and Renowned Cancer Researcher Dr. David Agus at Rebels With A Cause Event Benefitting USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine for Life-Saving Cancer Research
More than 500 luminaries in the entertainment, medical science, technology and business sectors gathered for the second annual Rebels With A Cause event last Thursday night resulting in the largest total funds raised to date at one event for the life-saving cancer research of David B. Agus, M.D., director of the USC Westside Cancer Center and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM), part of Keck School of Medicine of USC. While he was at the event to be honored and support the cause, it was Larry Ellison, CEO and co-founder of Oracle, who at the end of his acceptance speech announced his commitment to match the evening’s fund-raising efforts of $4.5 million for a total of $9 million.
“Tonight’s announcement from Larry Ellison was a truly moving moment,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the Keck School of Medicine and the man instrumental in bringing Dr. Agus to USC. “Larry believed in Dr. Agus’s work from the beginning when his Ellison Medical Foundation announced funding for the initiation of our cancer research at the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine,“ continued Puliafito. “The generosity of this evening’s guests – the Hollywood A-listers, entertainment and technology industry executives and business leaders – as well as the visionary champions we have in Larry and Brad Grey will continue to ensure cancer patients today and in the future have hope for better outcomes and improved survival rates at USC.”
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The event was co-hosted for the second year by Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey and wife, Cassandra, along with Dean Puliafito who joined co-presenting sponsors for the evening, Lynne and Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com. Stage 31 at Paramount studios was turned into a beautifully serene white set for the evening’s event emceed by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel with a rousing performance from hip hop R&B singer-songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams who performed his Oscar-nominated tune, “Happy,” to open the event. Grammy, Tony, Emmy-awarding winning superstar Barry Manilow had the crowd on their feet performing several of his hit songs such as “I Made It Through the Rain,” “Copacabana,” and ending with the event relevant, “One Voice,” performed with 62 members of the USC Thornton School of Music Choir, all organized by David Foster.
Brad Grey, whose fund-raising efforts over the last two years have helped raise significant dollars for USC’s CAMM, welcomed guests including Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, John Stamos, Bob Saget, January Jones, Jerry Bruckheimer and Chris Pine. One of the most poignant moments of the evening was actors Jonah Hill and Anna Kendrick reading aloud the life-changing letters of Dr. Agus’s patients such as Robin Quivers, co-host of the Howard Stern Radio Show.
“I first met David Agus through Sumner Redstone, and as I’ve gotten to know David through the years I’ve become a huge admirer,” said Brad Grey. “It’s extraordinary work he’s doing. When you see how horrible cancer is, you want to do everything you can to put personalized medicine on the map and to really go after genomic testing and gene sequencing and go after everything we can tackle. That is what David and USC do better than anyone.”
“Both Larry and Brad have been champions for the breakthroughs our research is doing to find better ways to manage cancer patient treatments,” said Dr. David Agus. “Philanthropy is allowing us to think outside of the box – to do things differently to fight cancer, to take the risks needed – to treat the millions of people worldwide impacted by cancer.”
Agus believes each cancer patient needs to be treated according to his/her own molecular make-up – there is no “one size fits all” approach to fighting cancer.
“USC is a leader in bringing together different disciplines in research to find cures and solutions quicker – to benefit patients with cancer,” continued Agus. “Our Center brings together a multi-disciplinary team of cancer biologists, molecular biologists, computer scientists, physicists, engineering experts and mathematicians to push the envelope further. We get to continue the fight because of the overwhelming support of visionaries such as Larry and Brad. Without the generosity of those who attended the event, cancer wins, and we can’t let that happen.”
As one of the world’s richest men, Ellison is also one of the most generous philanthropists. He was being honored at the event as one of the original champions of Dr. Agus’s research having provided the initial funding for CAMM in 2009. Dr. Agus told the audience it was at a time when funding was scarce for medical research and his years of pursuing better treatments for cancer patients through proteomic technology was at risk. Ellison provided the funding Agus needed to keep going as he found a new home at Keck School of Medicine of USC.
“I first met David in 2006 when my dear relative was diagnosed with cancer and given little hope for survival,” Ellison told the crowd as he took the stage to be honored. “I reached out to Dr. Agus and today that close relative is still alive because of the innovative oncology treatment David provided.” Ellison became a believer and has dedicated significant funding since 2009 to continue the pioneering research Dr. Agus is leading at USC.
The Rebels With A Cause event was part of the Keck Medicine Initiative and the Campaign for the University of Southern California.
ABOUT THE USC CENTER FOR APPLIED MOLECULAR MEDICINE (CAMM) The USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM) was founded at the Keck School of Medicine in 2009 by David B. Agus, M.D. to develop new cross-disciplinary approaches to treating and preventing cancer. The Center includes teams members with expertise spanning oncology, cancer biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, computer science, electrical engineering, bioorganic chemistry, physics and applied mathematics. The CAMM program includes the clinical care of cancer patients at the USC Norris Westside Cancer Center in Beverly Hills. For information, visit: camm.usc.edu.