La Jolla couple gives $10 million to UCSD Clinical and Translational Research Institute

Steve and Lisa Altman      Photo: UCSD
Steve and Lisa Altman Photo: UCSD

Press Release

La Jolla philanthropists Steve and Lisa Altman have pledged $10 million to the planned Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) building to be constructed on the UCSD medical campus, UCSD Health Sciences officials announced Thursday.

Steve Altman is president of Qualcomm, Inc.; he and his wife, Lisa, have been generous patrons of many local and national charities. Their annual charity event, “Rock the Cure” has raised money in support of research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

“We are thrilled that the Altmans have stepped forward to accelerate a project that has been our dream for many years — to have a special building dedicated to having researchers and clinicians working side by side with patients to address major diseases,” said David A. Brenner, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Sciences. “Their gift will help us provide personalized care that focuses on using the most advanced technologies to care for San Diegans and people from around the globe.”

The Altmans know personally the impact that disease can have on a family.

“Type 1 diabetes has afflicted many generations of our family,” said Lisa Altman. “Our son, who is now 21, was found to have type 1 diabetes when he was 13; Steve’s father, now 78, was diagnosed at age 4; Steve’s brother, Jeff, at age 12, and Steve’s niece — who is now 16 — at age 6. Our teenage daughter tested positive for certain anti-bodies, so we have also been living for years with the realization that she is likely to contract the disease. It is of critical importance to us and so many other families that a cure for type 1 diabetes be found.”

Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a disorder of the body's immune system that is generally diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults. The disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys certain cells that produce insulin — a hormone that helps the body convert food into energy. People with type 1 diabetes must frequently test their blood sugar and take insulin to stay alive, sometimes requiring multiple injections daily or delivering insulin through a pump.

“When my brother contracted the disease more than 30 years ago, we were led to believe then that a cure was just around the corner,” said Steve Altman. “Tremendous progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

The Altmans made a promise to their son to always get him the latest and greatest treatments. But when they had to travel to San Francisco for an experimental therapy, they asked themselves why such care wasn’t available in San Diego.

“This institute will provide a single place in San Diego to find the latest in clinical research and discoveries, plus follow-up treatment,” said Steve Altman. “We know how difficult it is to see a disease change the life of one’s own child, and we are pleased that we can play a small role in helping UC San Diego bring together the resources needed to help cure type 1 diabetes and so many other diseases that impact our community and the world.”

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