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Knights to give $100 million to OHSU Cancer Institute

The gift, the largest in OHSU history, will allow the institute to advance its groundbreaking work in developing cancer treatments


Brian Druker, M.D., responds to the Knights' transformational gift

Oregon Health & Science University today announced that Philip H. and Penny Knight have pledged to give $100 million to the OHSU Cancer Institute. The Nike founder's gift – the largest in the history of OHSU – represents a critical step toward achieving the cancer institute's ambitious goal to make Oregon's cancer death rate the lowest in the nation.

In recognition of the transformational impact the donors' generosity will have on the treatment of cancer, OHSU will rename its cancer institute – the state's only National Cancer Institute-designated center – the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

The first $2 million of the gift will name the Linda Conant Laboratory Suite, a key component of the Center for Cancer Cell Signaling in OHSU's new Biomedical Research Building. Conant, who died of breast cancer in January, was a close friend of the Knight family. The remaining $98 million will establish the OHSU Cancer Institute Knight Fund for use at the discretion of the institute's director. Acclaimed cancer researcher Brian Druker, M.D., assumed that post in 2007 with the goal of making Oregon the national leader in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

"Brian Druker is nothing short of a genius and a visionary," said Knight. "Unfortunately, cancer touches all of our lives. Penny and I believe because of the work of Dr. Druker and his talented staff that the Linda Conants of the future will have more quality years to spend with their loved ones."

"We deeply appreciate the Knights' extraordinary generosity," OHSU President Joseph Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., said. "This is an historic event for OHSU. The Knights' gift will not only impact Oregonians with cancer, but will ultimately change the lives of patients around the world. It also represents for Oregonians a tremendous return on their investment in OHSU through the Oregon Opportunity, which was used to build the laboratories needed to recruit world-renowned scientists in cancer and a number of other fields. Today OHSU is in a position to earn additional support on an unprecedented scale, all for the purpose of achieving its highest aspiration: improving the health and well-being of all Oregonians."

The donation is also "a tremendous expression of belief and confidence in Brian Druker and his strong track record of success," Robertson said. "This opportunity will allow a most deserving and capable physician-scientist to fulfill the vision we share with the Knights — to win the war on cancer in Oregon and beyond."

Druker said the impact of the gift will be far-reaching. "This is a transformational gift for the cancer institute and OHSU. I am so proud to have Phil and Penny Knight's tremendous support in our fight to end cancer as we know it. The Knights understand the urgency of our mission. This gift will save lives."

Druker, who holds the JELD-WEN chair of leukemia research at OHSU and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, said his top priority is to recruit and retain outstanding cancer researchers and clinicians to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. In a highly competitive market for top faculty, the gift will help the institute attract researchers from other top cancer centers in the nation while motivating its existing faculty to remain at OHSU. OHSU can create powerful synergies, he said, by bringing the best and brightest minds together in one place, equipping them with the best resources, and supporting their efforts to target the underlying causes of cancer.

The resulting breakthroughs will benefit cancer patients everywhere, Druker said, and Oregonians will benefit from having access to many of them first. "By bringing faculty of the highest caliber to Oregon, OHSU will be better able to provide the latest and most advanced therapies to more cancer patients, while ramping up our statewide cancer screening and prevention efforts through partnerships with community hospitals and healthcare providers."

A world-renowned researcher and National Academy of Sciences member, Druker led the development of Gleevec, a targeted cancer pill that has revolutionized cancer research. The drug works by targeting and turning off specific proteins in cancer cells that drive the growth of tumors while leaving healthy cells alone. Initially approved to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia, Gleevec is also now approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for six other cancers and is being tested in other forms of the disease.

"This gift's real impact will be measured by how many Oregonians survive cancer because of what Phil and Penny Knight have made possible," said Constance French, interim president of the OHSU Foundation. "We are honored and deeply grateful that the Knights have chosen to partner with us in the fight against cancer through this exceptional gift."

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center between Sacramento and Seattle, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is committed to translating discoveries into better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Through a robust basic and clinical research program and compassionate, multidisciplinary care, more than 200 research scientists and medical professionals are working to bring new hope to patients and their families.

Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only health and research university, and Oregon's only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with 12,400 employees. OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.

The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for Oregon Health & Science University. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors' wishes.

OHSU announces $100 million gift from Knight family - view the full announcement

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