Chinese billionaire Tianqiao Chen, the largest shareholder of troubled Community Health Systems, is donating $115 million to the California Institute of Technology for a brain research institute.
Chen and his wife are supporting the new Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech to advance the understanding of how the brain works and promote medical treatments for neurological illnesses, the university and couple said in a news release.
Chen, who made his initial fortune in online gaming, burst onto the U.S. healthcare scene this year by accumulating a 13.8% stake in hospital chain CHS at bargain-basement prices.
The stock purchases by Chen and his investment affiliates concerned CHS management, forcing the board to adopt a poison-pill defense to try to give leaders time to turn around operations and divest hospital assets.
Chen told Modern Healthcare exclusively in October that he is buying stock in CHS for investment purposes, not to take over the company. CHS shares are trading at about $6 per share versus $60 a share 18 months ago. CHS is the nation's second-largest investor-owned hospital company with 158 hospitals.
The new Chen Institute at Caltech will promote brain research from deciphering the basic biology “with the goal of making transformational advances that will inform new scientific tools and medical treatments,” the release said. Caltech plans to construct a $200 million biosciences complex named in honor of the couple that will include state-of-the-art facilities.
“Our involvement in the Internet and entertainment industries allowed us to witness the ability for technology advancements to influence human perception, as well as to observe the resultant meaningful effects on human behavior,” Chen said. “However, there is little understanding about how the brain processes and connects what lies in between—sensation, perception, cognition and action.”
The Caltech gift is the first to a U.S. university by the Chen Institute. The couple has a long history of supporting medical programs for children in China and Mongolia, as well education for underprivileged families and disaster relief in China, the release noted.