$32M gift earmarked for McMaster U’s biomedical and global health arms

McMaster University biomedical unit will get a $32 Million boost thanks to a donation from an Alabama physician and entrepreneur. McMaster University

A successful U.S.-based ophthalmologist and entrepreneur is making one of the largest gift donations in McMaster University’s history to boost the post-secondary’s biomedical and global health units.

More than $32 million is coming from Marnix Heersink, an Alabama physician and businessman, to create a school of biomedical innovation and entrepreneurship in his name.

“I think McMaster is the perfect place to make this donation because of its well-earned reputation in innovative health care learning and research,” Heersink said in a release.

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“Health care, innovation and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. We’ve seen how McMaster encourages this trend and I was inspired.”

Heersink was born in the Netherlands but grew up in Burlington, Ont. After graduating as a physician, he moved to Alabama, where he has a successful career as an ophthalmologist and business leader.

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Part of the money is also earmarked for a section that will examine threats to global health, such as pandemics and the climate crisis. That centre will become the Mary Heersink Centre for Global Health, named for his wife, a food security author and advocate.

She is also a founding member of the international advisory board for McMaster’s Global Health Graduate Program.

“We are very grateful for this major gift from Marnix and Mary Heersink, which will allow us to cement the link between cutting-edge biomedical science and entrepreneurial activity, helping McMaster to lay the foundations for a new innovation ecosystem right here in Hamilton,” McMaster’s president David Farrar said in a statement.

The forthcoming new school will be based at the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery on McMaster’s main campus.

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In the future, it will be housed in a new purpose-built building, as part of the development of Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats.

The McMaster gift comes off the heels of an estimated $120-million donation from the Heersinks to the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2021.

A 2003 donation of just over $100 million from billionaire Michael G. DeGroote, founder of Laidlaw Transportation, is the largest cash gift McMaster has ever received to date.

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