IRVINE — UC Irvine has received a $50 million donation from Orange County biotech entrepreneur Charlie Dunlop for its School of Biological Sciences, it was announced Saturday.

Dean Frank LaFerla announced the gift at Saturday's school commencement, where Dunlop was the featured speaker. The school will be renamed the Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Sciences in appreciation of the gift.

"I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to Charlie Dunlop for his extraordinary generosity and enduring commitment to the advancement of the life sciences and the betterment of our society," LaFerla said. "Thanks to him, the school will now enter a new era of discovery and excellence. Together, our students, faculty and all members of our biological sciences community will embark on a journey of innovation and impact."

The gift will create an endowed fund that will provide unrestricted support for academic and research activities within the school.

"This gift supports UC Irvine's belief that human and environmental health are integrated and that well-being requires an evidence-based approach that engages all disciplines in the School of Biological Sciences," Chancellor Howard Gillman said. "Charlie Dunlop's dedication to this vision and his deep generosity will help UC Irvine set a standard that other biology programs in the U.S. can follow."

Frank LaFerla, dean of the new Charlie Dunlop School of Biological Science, with Charles Dunlop. (Photo courtesy Steve Zylius/UCI)

Raised in Orange County and a graduate of UC San Diego, Dunlap founded Ambry Genetics in 1999 in a small office above a Harley-Davidson motorcycle shop after raising about $500,000 from friends and family. The company became a pioneer in genetic testing and is the first in the world to offer such tests as hereditary cancer panels and clinical exome sequencing.

During his time at Ambry, Dunlop found UC Irvine to be a valuable source of scientific personnel, regularly hiring biological sciences graduates.

"UC Irvine is a huge asset to California, to the community and to Irvine," Dunlop said. "It would have been impossible to build a business like Ambry without UC Irvine and the higher education system in California, so for me to give back to the system that produced me and most of Ambry's employees seems like the right thing to do."