It’s not every day that someone surprises you with a $2.5 million check. After finding himself in this situation, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute advanced prostate researcher Joshi Alumkal, M.D., said he was “simply speechless.”
The gift from the Kuni Foundation will fully fund an endowed chair position for Alumkal, with revenue to support new research in his laboratory. This honor brings Alumkal and the Kuni Foundation, who have had a long-standing relationship, full circle.
Alumkal, an associate professor of medicine (hematology and medical oncology) in the OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, previously received two peer-reviewed grants from the Kuni Foundation. The first supported a clinical trial to study a dietary approach to slowing down recurrent prostate cancer. He also was one of three researchers from the Pacific Northwest honored with a Kuni Foundation Scholar Award.
Alumkal says both grant awards were “transformative” and enabled his lab to branch out in new directions and to study high-risk, new ideas. The awards also provided the opportunity to get to know the members of the Kuni Foundation board and the Kuni family better.
“The Kuni Foundation and the Kuni family care so deeply about making certain that we have the best possible cancer research and care for patients right here in our own backyard,” he said. “It has been a privilege to be touched once again by the Kuni commitment to making cancer a thing of the past!”
“We are honored to support Dr. Alumkal’s important work, and it has been a privilege to participate in this journey with him as he progressed in his career and made important contributions to the field of prostate cancer research,” said Sean Kuni, board secretary for the Kuni Foundation. “This investment underscores the importance of taking a long-term view when supporting people and projects that can advance this important work from research to discovery, and ultimately a cure.”
Founder Wayne Kuni, who died from cancer, was an entrepreneurial community leader known for his mentorship of others. His commitment to investing in emerging talent was inherent in the creation of the Foundation’s Kuni Scholars Program, which supports promising cancer researchers and enables them to pursue new ideas or approaches that might not typically receive funding. The Kuni Foundation’s $2.5 million gift for the creation of the Prostate Cancer Research Endowed Chair for Alumkal underscores the importance of taking a long-term approach when investing in the talent necessary to move the work from research to discovery in the quest to make progress in cancer research.
Alumkal likened running his laboratory to running a small business. With this gift, he said he will have a stable line of capital to invest in new, high-risk ideas that may be too preliminary for traditional funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health. He explained that in the current funding climate, one in which nine out of every 10 grants are not funded, the Kuni support will provide some breathing room and a sustainable source of funding for years to come.
“This endowed chair is such an honor,” he said. “The Kuni Foundation and the Kuni family have known me for close to a decade now. I am truly touched that they thought enough of our work to make such a tremendous investment, especially because of all the amazing areas they could have invested in at the Knight Cancer Institute.”
Alumkal plans to take time to map out how best to administer funds generated from the endowed chair and acknowledged that there are several new initiatives that will be immediately jump-started.
“I can promise this,” he said. “I will try my hardest each day to live up to such an honor and to explore research directions that might transform how we think about and treat advanced prostate cancer patients. There are no words that can capture just how grateful I am to the Kuni Foundation, the Kuni family and to Dr. Brian Druker for helping to make this chair a reality.”
Read more about the Kuni Foundation’s support of Alumkal, as well as their support for Knight Cancer Institute lung cancer research.