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Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford is donating $100 million for stem cell research to the University of California at San Diego.(Photo: Lara Neel, (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Argus Leader)
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A philanthropist who made his money as a credit card provider is giving $100 million to human stem-cell research.

The money will go to the University of California at San Diego during the next five years as researchers reach certain milestones, said T. Denny Sanford, who founded First Premier Bank here and offers low-limit Mastercards and Visas to customers with poor credit through Premier Bankcard. United National Corp., where Sanford is now chief executive, owns both companies.

"This, in my opinion, is the medicine of the future," he said. "The potential of stem cells is just unbelievable."

The money will support the hiring of 20 or more scientists and efforts to recruit patients for drug trials along with new construction at the San Diego complex.

The donation pushes Sanford past the $1 billion mark for total gifts to health care and research, he said.

Sanford, 77, has homes in South Dakota, Arizona and California. On Oct. 19, he suffered a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in the lungs — while on a hunting trip with...