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$200M gift propels scientific research in the search for life beyond earth

Legacy of Franklin Antonio represents quantum leap for The SETI Institute

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SETI Institute



The Allen Telescope Array

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Credit: SETI Institute/Simon Steel

$200m Gift Propels Scientific Research in the Search for Life Beyond Earth

Legacy of Franklin Antonio represents quantum leap for The SETI Institute

November 8, 2023, Mountain View, CA The SETI Institute, a non-profit scientific research organization, announced today a philanthropic gift of $200m from the estate of Franklin Antonio, a visionary supporter and catalyst of the work of the SETI Institute for more than 12 years. Co-founder of communications chip company, Qualcomm, Antonio passed away on May 13, 2022, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy to enable breakthrough science in the search for intelligent life beyond our world. 

With more than 100 scientists actively conducting research across 173 separate programs, the SETI Institute explores six key science disciplines: Astronomy and Astrophysics; Exoplanets; Planetary Exploration; Astrobiology; Climate and bio-geoscience; and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

“Guided by our core mission and Franklin Antonio’s vision, we now have the opportunity to elevate and expedite our research and make new discoveries to benefit all humanity for generations to come,” said SETI Institutes President & CEO Bill Diamond. “In his memory, the SETI Institute will continue its pursuit of one of the biggest and most profound questions in all of science, a question as old as humanity itself – are we alone in the universe?”

This gift enables the SETI Institute to undertake more missions and expand research priorities to push the boundaries of human knowledge in exploring life beyond our planet and the origins of life here on Earth. Examples include:

  • Establish postdoctoral fellowships and internal grants for science and education programs
  • Enable the SETI Institute’s research base to expand and extend its reach globally through new international collaborations
  • Develop new educational programs and initiatives, particularly focused on reaching and engaging underserved communities
  • Support the development of innovative observational technologies and analytical instruments

“Not only was Franklin the primary benefactor of SETI research at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), but he was an integral part of the technical team. His extraordinary knowledge of communications technology was invaluable in upgrading the ATA to the world-class radio telescope instrument it is today,” said Dr. Andrew Siemion, Bernard M. Oliver Chair of SETI Research at the SETI Institute and Director of SETI Research at the University of Oxford.

Currently, SETI-focused projects are eligible for only limited federal funding through research grants and otherwise depend entirely on philanthropic support and private funding. As such, Antonio’s gift will also serve to permanently endow core SETI programs and foster new global partnerships.

“This gift will impact all research domains of the SETI Institute,” said Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research. “It will provide our teams the freedom to pursue their own science priorities, and to examine the technological, philosophical and societal impact of their research on our daily lives here on Earth.”


About The SETI Institute
Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity's quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the universe and share that knowledge with the world. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages data analytics, machine learning, and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia, and government agencies, including NASA the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

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