The University Health System announced yesterday a $22 million gift from shopping center pioneer and longtime donor A. Alfred Taubman.

The donation will establish the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute within the University Medical School.

Taubman, who donated $30 million in 1999 to the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, said the University is “one of the great institutions in America” in a podcast on the new institute’s website.

Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development, said donation discussions between Taubman and University officials have been taking place for several years.

“Mr. Taubman has been in a dialogue with University leaders for some time about really making a difference in the medical field,” May said.

The donation will also fund individuals’ research within the Taubman Medical Research Institute. The first five of these individual endowments – named “Taubman Scholar” positions – were announced yesterday.

The research of these scholars will focus on understanding various human diseases and developing cures.

The research topics of the first Taubman Scholars include communicable diseases, cancer, neurology and cardiovascular medicine.

“These investigators are involved in specific things, but the combination of these five may open up a whole new understanding of curing people,” Taubman said in the podcast.

Dr. David Pinsky, one of the first five Taubman Scholars, described the gift as “inspirational” and said it will allow him to increase his creativity in medical research.

“(This donation) allows people to believe that an institution like ours will have a beneficial impact on humanity,” said Pinsky, who is the chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

The donation will also help University medical researchers broaden the scope of cancer stem cell research, said Dr. Max Wicha, another Taubman Scholar and director of the University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This donation will let us bring other researchers into this marginal field and extend the research we’ve done with breast cancer stem cells to other cancers,” Wicha said.

Dr. Valerie Castle, a pediatric cancer specialist; Dr. Eva Feldman, a neurologist; and Dr. Yehoash Raphael, a cell biologist, are the other three Taubman Scholars.

Taubman’s donations to the University have caused some controversy.

He served a year in prison from 2002 to 2003 for a price-fixing scheme with Sotheby’s auction house. After Taubman’s conviction, some pushed the University to remove his name from the numerous buildings and programs named for him.

Regardless, Taubman said he hopes his donation will encourage others to give to the University.

“We can make a lot of difference,” he said in the podcast. “The science is there. The institution is there. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring these two together and make (change) happen.”

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