Oregon Health & Science University today announced it met Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny’s $1 billion challenge by raising $500 million in less than two years to earn the Knights’ matching gift and set a fundraising record.
The $1 billion will support the first large-scale program dedicated to early detection of lethal cancers — one of the biggest unmet needs in cancer care today.
“While cancer treatment has evolved to become more precise and less toxic, the tests and tools used for cancer detection have not changed in decades. Without better, earlier detection, and a full understanding of cancer’s origins in the body, the promise of precision cancer medicine cannot be realized,” said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
Meeting the Knights’ $500 million fundraising challenge marks the largest documented challenge pledge to succeed, according to researchers with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
“Penny and I have total confidence in Brian Druker and the entire OHSU Knight Cancer Institute team to put a stop to a disease that touches each of our lives,” Phil Knight said. “These last 22 months have shown what is possible when people of vision focus on a single goal. We are more convinced than ever that cancer will meet its match at OHSU, and we are proud to play a role in this history in the making.”
With $1 billion in new funding, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will begin fast-track recruitment of about 25 of the world’s top researchers. These recruits will, in turn, hire an additional 225 to 275 scientists and physicians, forming a team focused on the detection of cancer, including the early biological changes in the body that signal a lethal cancer is beginning to develop. Catching the disease in these very early stages will unleash the full potential of precision cancer medicine. It will make it possible to detect cancer when it first starts and treat it when it’s most curable, with the fewest side effects and at the lowest cost.
These scientists will be given substantial financial support, so they can focus on discovery instead of spending time securing grants. With this expansion, OHSU will also move forward with construction of two buildings ― a state-of-the-art cancer research facility designed from the ground up to support a new model of combining scientific disciplines to speed progress and new cancer care clinics for expanded clinical trials that will translate the scientific discoveries made by the team into next-generation detection tests, tools and treatments.
“This is a historic milestone for cancer research, for Oregon and for our institution,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. “The support we have received to achieve our ambitious goal ― putting an end to cancer as we know it ― has been nothing short of stunning. We are deeply grateful to the state of Oregon for its leadership and investment at the early stages of our campaign as well as to the thousands of individuals, companies and foundations who joined us along the way.”
In the past few weeks, more than $20 million in donations came in to support the campaign, including significant gifts from Cambia Health Foundation; Pat and Stephanie Kilkenny of San Diego, California; Mark Wolfson and Jasper Ridge Partners; Intel Corporation; Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation; the Blumenfeld family of New York City; the Wendt family of Klamath Falls, Oregon; and Consumer Cellular.
- The largest gift received since the campaign launched in 2013 was from the state of Oregon, which invested $200 million for the needed research and clinical facilities.
- The largest gift from an individual ―$100 million — came from Columbia Sportswear Chairman Gert Boyle.
- In all, more than 10,000 donors participated and, of these, more than half were first-time donors to OHSU.
- Donations were received from every state in the nation and five countries.
“Our work is just beginning,” added L. Keith Todd, president of the OHSU Foundation. “The Knight Cancer Challenge created an unstoppable movement against cancer. We will continue our efforts to ensure OHSU has all the resources it needs to achieve its vision. Our sense of urgency will not recede until we have fully delivered on the promise of stopping this life-threatening disease.”
The Knights made their challenge pledge in September 2013 after being inspired by the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s goal to revolutionize how cancer is detected. The challenge pledge follows their $100 million gift to OHSU in 2008 to support Druker’s work, which helped pioneer the field of precision medicine.
Druker conducted the breakthrough research that led to the development of Gleevec® for chronic myeloid leukemia. This once-a-day cancer pill proved it was possible to kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Since he first proved this new type of treatment was possible, many other precision treatments have been developed ― making less toxic, tailored cancer treatment a reality for many patients and launching the field of personalized or precision medicine.
“Today too many patients die or have to suffer through debilitating treatments because their disease is caught too late. Too few physicians and scientists are focused on this problem in a meaningful way and we are committed to filling that gap,” Druker said. “We are thankful to everyone who is making this goal a reality.”
About the Knight Cancer Institute
The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University is a pioneer in the field of personalized cancer medicine. The institute's director, Brian Druker, M.D., helped prove it was possible to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy cells. This breakthrough has made once-fatal forms of the disease manageable and ushered in a new generation of targeted cancer therapies. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center between Sacramento and Seattle – an honor earned only by the nation's top cancer centers. It offers the latest treatments and technologies as well as hundreds of research studies and clinical trials.