John Malone

John Malone

AP Photo

Malones Give Record $42.5 Million Gift to CSU

Donation will fund stem-cell research facility at Colorado State University.

Bridlewood Farm owners and philanthropists John and Leslie Malone have committed a record $42.5 million to Colorado State University to develop regenerative medical therapies for animals and people.

The couple, who recently added Ballylinch Stud in Ireland to their portfolio of Thoroughbred interests, is fascinated by the healing power of stem cells. John Malone is chairman of Liberty Media Group, which counts satellite radio company Sirius XM among its holdings. 

The Malones' donation, the largest cash gift in university history, will launch the CSU Institute for Biologic Translational Therapies to investigate next-generation remedies based on living cells and their products, including patient-derived stem cells, to treat musculoskeletal disease and other ailments. 

Colorado State veterinarians are expert at analyzing medical treatments for animal patients, then providing knowledge gained to boost human medical advancements; the progression is known as translational medicine and is successful because of similarities in animal and human physiology and disease.

"We are tremendously grateful to John and Leslie Malone for their generous philanthropy, foresight, and dedication to scientific discovery," Colorado State president Tony Frank said in a press release. "In addition to being the largest cash gift in the university's history, their commitment positions us to build on our foundation as a leader in translational medicine, where advances in veterinary medicine very rapidly move into the sphere of benefitting human health."

The new institute will be unique in its focus on developing regenerative treatments from inception in the laboratory setting, through clinical trials, to commercialization of new technologies.

The donation was inspired in part by stem-cell treatments the Malones' world-class dressage horses have received to help repair stressed and injured joints, the couple said. Malone, the largest individual private landowner in the United States, also has a large horse farm near Denver.

"You put so much training into them, it would be wonderful to have them enjoy their health for a longer period," said Leslie Malone, a supporter of the U.S. Olympic dressage team. She led through her immaculate barn a promising dressage competitor named Blixt, a gelding that suffered lameness, underwent successful arthroscopic surgery at the Colorado State Orthopaedic Research Center, received stem-cell injections, and now is back to training.

"We think this whole area of research is very exciting in what it portends for humans and animals," John Malone said. "When you say, 'Who's in the best position to do something about this?'--to take cutting-edge research and apply it pragmatically to the problems we see that people and horses are encountering on a day-to-day basis - it became pretty logical. CSU was the right place to go."

The Malones' gift will provide $10 million for operations and $32.5 million for construction of an institute building, to feature laboratories, specialized surgical suites, and conference space for veterinarians and physicians. The lead gift requires $32.5 million in matching donations for building construction.

"We are truly appreciative and humbled by John and Leslie Malone's contribution to Colorado State University. This is a transformational gift that will make a difference in our society today and in the future," Brett Anderson, vice president for advancement, said.

The Malones, dedicated to dressage and racehorses, first encountered Colorado State through its Orthopaedic Research Center, led by Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, University Distinguished Professor and renowned equine arthroscopic surgeon.

In 2013, the couple donated $6 million to endow the Leslie A. Malone Presidential Chair in Equine Sports Medicine, a way to foster prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injuries in performance horses.

They soon focused on the Orthopaedic Research Center's work in biological therapies - with gene therapy, stem cells, specialized tissue replacement and novel proteins. These therapies, used alone and in combination with minimally invasive surgery, could provide more effective and longer-lasting treatment for equine athletes and people with osteoarthritis and orthopaedic injuries.

"We are so thankful for John and Leslie's support and consider them real partners," McIlwraith said.