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A ‘Venetian Affair’ in the name of science

Fifth annual Alfred Mann Foundation Gala

Posted: November 19, 2008 10:13 p.m.
Updated: November 20, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Actress Bai Ling was among those honored at the Alfred Mann Foundation Innovation and Inspiration Gala.

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Scientists and celebrities alike attended the fifth annual Alfred Mann Foundation Innovation and Inspiration Gala on Nov. 2 at the Vibiana in Los Angeles.

The Alfred Mann Foundation is a nonprofit medical research foundation dedicated to developing advanced medical technologies that provide significant improvements to the well-being, security and quality of life for people suffering from incapacitating medical conditions. The Gala, which boasted a "Venetian Ball" theme, was held to raise funding for medical technologies research.

Mann Biomedical Park, a 167-acre parcel of the former 377-acre Lockheed aerospace research facility in Rye Canyon in Valencia, was acquired by billionaire entrepreneur Alfred Mann in January 2002. The park has been the location of several large events to benefit the nonprofit organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley. The annual events held at Mann Biomedical Park include the annual SCV Boys & Girls Club auction, Taste of the Town to benefit the Child and Family Center and the Evening Under the Stars to benefit the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer.

The Alfred Mann Foundation is located at the Mann Biomedical Park in Valencia in addition to several major tenants including Advanced Bionics Corp.

Philanthropist and medical device pioneer Alfred Mann and his wife, Claude, presented awards at the Innovation and Inspiration Gala throughout the evening to honored guests.

Placido Domingo, director of the L.A. Opera, received an award for artistic vision; Gayle and Edward P. Roski Jr. received an award for innovation and vision and Joseph Schulman, Ph.D. received an award for scientific achievement. Additional honored guests included actresses Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes"), Joanna Garcia and Bai Ling. The Foundation also announced the donation of two cochlear implants valued at $50,000 from Advanced Bionics Corporation.

"Placido Domingo is being honored as a great artist and philanthropist," Alfred Mann said. "Ed and Gail Roski have been very successful in their lives and they have become wonderful philanthropists, not just giving of their money but of their time.

And Joe Schulman was my first employee in medical products and led the team that created the 25-year pacemaker. He has gone on to develop many things."

A full orchestra and Venetian dancers directed by Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning choreographer Debbie Allen performed for an audience of nearly 350 guests in a ballroom surrounded by tall Corinthian pillars and brilliant Venetian draperies. Guests socialized and enjoyed dinner around long velvet-draped tables topped with exquisite roses and gold-detailed china. The evening also featured a silent and live auction for more than 100 one-of-a-kind luxury items.

"We're trying to get more people aware of what the foundation does," said Cassandra Mann, daughter of Alfred and Claude and event co-chair. "There are still people out there who don't realize that there's a cochlear implant or that there's things for stroke patients or for people who have incontinence or migraine headaches. We can cure a lot of things. And one man alone can't do all it all, so it's important for people to be involved and continue the research of what the foundation does."

Funds raised at the gala in past years have facilitated the foundation's medical research.
"We typically raise about $1.5 million, which enables us to hire another five or six engineers and scientists as we move forward," Alfred Mann said.

Cassandra Mann said funds raised would be used for research.

"It's really to continue finding cures for people who should be able to live healthy, normal lives," she said.

Bai Ling respects the work the Alfred Mann Foundation does to develop devices to help people.

"There are so many beauties in the world and many people are less fortunate in being able to hear, comprehend, to be aware of and realize," she said. "This foundation provides things that are very basic to help people to enjoy life, art and music. It's simple, but necessary for people to be normal."

Alfred Mann created the Foundation in 1985 and has been instrumental in developing cutting-edge medical devices like the pacemaker, insulin pump, cochlear implant and prosthetic retinas.

"Our main project at the foundation now is to create a system that will enable people who have paralyzed limbs to be able to use them again," he said.

Cassandra Mann said the Mann Biomedical Park is great location for the Foundation.

"We love being in Santa Clarita doing our work," she said.

For more information about the foundation visit www.aemf.org.

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