Andrew J. and Erna Viterbi

Helping Bridge the Gap between Lab and Clinic

Inventor, entrepreneur, and former Scripps Research trustee Andrew J. Viterbi, Ph.D., has spent half a century capturing and capitalizing on the physical sciences. Best known for the Viterbi Algorithm used in digital communications and other fields and a co-founder of QUALCOMM, Inc., a leading developer and manufacturer of mobile satellite communications and digital wireless telephony, nonetheless, he sees biological sciences as the wave of the future.

"While the last century has been the century of physical sciences, I believe the next century will be the century of biological sciences," said Dr. Viterbi.

Dr. Viterbi's interest in the biological sciences first led him to Scripps Research as a member of the Scripps Cancer Center Advisory Board. The Center is dedicated to quickly bringing advanced cancer treatments from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside through breakthrough translational research. Demonstrating his commitment of time, talent, and financial resources, he and his late wife, Erna, made a $2 million gift for state-of-the-art research under Jorge Nieva, M.D., former assistant professor of chemistry, at Scripps Research.

"While it's difficult to bridge the gap between the research laboratory and the clinical environment, translational medicine is critical to effective drug discovery," said Dr. Viterbi.

A doctoral graduate of the University of Southern California, where the school of engineering was recently named in his honor, Dr. Viterbi's decision to contribute to Scripps Research was influenced by the freedom afforded to scientists to follow their laboratory work in the direction that they think is most promising.

"I'm very oriented to independent research institutions such as those in private universities," he said. "Private institutions have more flexibility and control over their destiny, particularly in the recruitment of scientists — they're in a better position to control quality and limit bureaucracy."

As a scientist, businessman and philanthropist, Dr. Viterbi is a believer in basic research. "Basic research will yield tremendous dividends towards the fight against a variety of diseases. The key is getting extremely intelligent people involved and giving them free reign," he said. But he is equally devoted to advanced technologies. "More and more, the computer is becoming an indispensable tool in medical research," said Dr. Viterbi.

Dr. Viterbi is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among his many other honors, he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1978 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1996.

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"Basic research will yield tremendous dividends towards the fight against a variety of diseases,” says Andrew J. Viterbi, who, with his late wife Erna Viterbi, has provided generous support for the institute.