The Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic (BLI) was established in 1982 by Drs. Arnold O. Beckman and Michael W. Berns as an interdisciplinary center for the development and application of optical technologies in Biology and Medicine. Dr. Beckman provided the financial gift to establish BLI at UCI, and Dr. Berns provided programatic design patterned after his research. The BLI opened its doors in June of 1986 and has grown to include 20 faculty and approximately 150 staff, students, and research fellows.

The BLI is one of five national Beckman Institutes supported by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and built on the campuses of Caltech, The University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Stanford, The City of Hope, and UC Irvine. Each Beckman Institute is dedicated to cutting-edge interdisciplinary research at the interface of physical science, engineering, and biology. Because the BLI also houses a medical clinic, it is unique among this group in its capacity for conducting translational research that moves basic technologies rapidly from "benchtop to bedside".