The Milner Foundation, founded by renowned tech investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner and his wife Julia, has donated $3 million to three Israeli institutions currently leading a “race against the clock” to beat the coronavirus pandemic: Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical response organization, which is launching an innovative project to reduce the number of people coming to clinics; Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and George S. Wise Life Sciences, which is accelerating research efforts aimed at developing treatments for the virus; and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Ichilov Hospital, which will directly fund the intensive care unit that is caring for COVID-19 sufferers.
Mr. Milner, an Israeli citizen living in Silicon Valley, was an early investor in a range of tech giants that shaped the Internet, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Airbnb and Spotify. He and his wife Julia hope that the Foundation’s donation will help fight the spread of infection in Israel, and will advance new research and technological tools to combat the virus. The donation was carried out in close cooperation with Israel’s Consul-General to the Pacific North West in San Francisco, Mr. Shlomi Kofman.
“This is an investment in the present and the future,” Mr. Milner says. “In the short term, it’s a way to increase the intensive care unit capacity in Israel and relieve pressure on doctors and, in the longer term, it will support the search for a cure and help develop a new system of virtual medical treatment.
“In the face of global threats like this, science, technology and innovation are our best hopes. Israel is a leader in those fields, and I hope this initiative can both make an impact on COVID-19, and also become a model that can be replicated by other countries.”
Consul-General Kofman adds: “It is wonderful to see Israelis abroad supporting their country at this difficult time. Silicon Valley and the State of Israel share a resourcefulness and ingenuity that will be invaluable in overcoming this crisis, and this donation from the Milner Foundation will be a big help in advancing that goal.”
Donation to Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University will utilize the donation for vaccination and drug R&D to treat coronavirus infection. Five TAU research groups will be assisted in their gene sequencing and gene editing technologies, in computer analysis and other advanced methods to find ways to block the penetration of the virus into cells or alternatively to strengthen the body’s immune response to overcome infection. TAU scientists will use samples taken from coronavirus patients in hospitals affiliated with the university and will work in close cooperation with many organizations including the Health Ministry, the Technion Institute of Technology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Biology Research Institute and other research institutions in Israel and worldwide.
TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat says: “It’s very moving that in these difficult days, Milner Foundation has not forgotten the State of Israel and is generously helping Tel Aviv University. We for our part will do everything in our ability to justify the confidence given to us and through our first-rate researchers, we will contribute our part in this world war of a type that we have never known before.”
Donation to Magen David Adom (MDA)
MDA is launching an innovative project to reduce the number of people in Israel at healthcare fund clinics as well as hospital accident and emergency rooms. This is currently a critical necessity as the healthcare system contends with massive public demand. The project, which commenced due to the spread of the coronavirus, is part of MDA’s day-to-day operations and harnesses advanced telemedicine technologies in intensive care ambulances to provide effective, professional and safe medical treatment and reduce the number of people at clinics and hospitals. Due to this project, it will now be possible to treat coronavirus patients at home as well as those patients who cannot currently enter clinics for routine tests and treatment. MDA prepared the groundwork for the project in 2018, and the need for it has currently risen due to the coronavirus outbreak in Israel; the Foundation donation will enable MDA to fully launch this innovative project.
MDA Director-General Eli Bin says: “Milner Foundation’s generous donation takes this initiative — something we’ve planned for years — and instantly turns it into a viable program that can keep hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of hospitals every year. Using technology to benefit our patients has long been a priority at Magen David Adom, and the telemedicine equipment that we will now purchase on a large scale will allow us to significantly increase the number of patients we can respond to at home while reducing the burden on hospitals and preventing unnecessary infections.”
Donation to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
According to Prof. Ronni Gamzu CEO of TSMC (Ichilov), “The donation would serve the need of supporting Intensive Care Unit department, promoting diagnosis and research for the epidemiology and treatment of the new disease while serving the entire State of Israel and the world.”
Yuri Milner, who lives in Silicon Valley, California and holds Israeli citizenship, is one of the world’s most respected technology investors. His portfolio has included some of the world’s most prominent internet companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, Spotify, Alibaba, and others.
The Milner Foundation has contributed to a range of initiatives and organizations in Israel as well as to Jewish communities in Europe via The Conference of European Rabbis. In 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, the Foundation awarded NIS 25 million to 70 outstanding Ph.D. students at the Technion, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University. In addition, it is a prominent donor to the Peres Center for Peace and FIDF.
At the same time, Yuri and Julia Milner have long supported initiatives that utilize scientific and technological innovations to improve peoples’ lives, including joining Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge” initiative, as part of their commitment to donate most of their wealth for important scientific programs.
In 2012, they, together with other senior tech figures including Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Pony Ma founder of Tencent and Anne Wojcicki founder of 23andMe founded the Breakthrough Prizes – a not-for-profit organization which awards prizes for breakthrough research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics. The Breakthrough Prizes are considered among the most prestigious in the world of scientific achievements, and every year six winners each receives $3 million. Since 2012, the organization has awarded more than $200 million to about 2,000 scientists (including some prizes split between the members of large research groups).