Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad's foundation is contributing $25 million to help launch a major stem cell research initiative at the University of Southern California.

The Broad Foundation's gift, announced last week, kicks off the university's fund-raising campaign to create the Broad Institute for Integrative Biology and Stem Cell Research at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

Officials expect the 215,000-square-foot facility, expected to cost about $150 million, to become the hub for integrative biomedical research on USC's Health Sciences Campus and possibly the largest stem cell research center in California.

It also could help anchor the university's proposed biotech park, which has been slow getting off the ground.

USC is among several institutions around the state that are proceeding with plans to build facilities for stem cell research even as funding for the research itself remains in doubt. The sale of more than $3 billion in Proposition 71 bonds approved by voters in 2004 so far has been blocked by lawsuits from program opponents.

"For many years the Broads have been the driving force behind programs that promote health and well-being, enhance cultural and educational opportunities, and support urban and economic revitalization," USC President Steven Sample said in a statement.

"Their contribution is a strong vote of confidence in the quality of the research programs at USC."

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