Knight Cancer Challenge hits $1B goal in record time

In one sense, the $1 billion Knight Cancer Challenge is over.

Now, as Knight Cancer Institute Director Dr. Brian Druker put it, the real work begins.

Oregon Health & Science University officials confirmed Thursday that donors have met the Knight Cancer Challenge parameters, laid out by Nike founder Phil Knight, by raising $500 million for Druker’s group. Knight had pledged in October 2013 to steer a half-billion to the OHSU research arm if public and private donors could match it.

Knight’s efforts could turn Portland into a cancer-research hub.

The $1 billion will back what OHSU says is “the first large-scale program dedicated to early detection of lethal cancers.” The Portland institution will immediately recruit as many as 300 researchers, including 25 of those considered “the world’s top researchers.”

OHSU will also construct a state-of-the-art cancer research facility and new cancer care clinics.

Keith Todd, who heads OHSU’s Foundation, said according to researchers at Indiana University, the Knight Challenge is the most successful fundraising challenge ever completed in terms of money raised.

More than 10,000 donors gave money toward the effort.

“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 in a release. “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.”

The effort was buoyed by a $200 million bond package passed by the state of Oregon for the drive, as well as a $100 million gift from Columbia Sportswear’s Gert Boyle.

Yesterday, Consumer Cellular announced it has given the campaign $2 million, marking the largest corporate cash gift the Challenge has received.

All told, $20 million-plus went toward the campaign over the past few weeks. Those gifts came from such sources as the Cambia Health Foundation, former University of Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny and his wife Stephanie, Intel Corp., the Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation and the Wendt family, of Klamath Falls.

Todd said 75 percent of the donations came from Oregon.

“Every project takes a team to accomplish its goal, and in this case, that team happened to consist of people from all across Oregon,” said Todd. “From kids who had lemonade stands to Gert Boyle, this is a victory for Oregon.”
Druker was thrilled by the news but was also pragmatic.

“The development staff can celebrate, but I have to start recruiting people,” he said. “I can take a congratulatory lap, but then I have to go back and start a marathon.”

Druker and his team will use the money to start recruiting. He wants to add as many as 300 scientists to the Institute’s research team.

“It’s the same approach I took with Gleevec: We surveyed the landscape and said, what’s the best target that would be manageable? With that, we landed on the enzyme that drives growth of (chronic myeloid leukemia) and we worked with the drug community to develop medicines,” Druker said.

“We’ll take the same approach: What are the best targets? How do we identify them and get into clinics? We’ll be thoughtful and focus on ways to launch a new paradigm for early detection based on knowledge.”

Knight had also given $100 million to OHSU in 2008 specifically for Druker to research early detection cancer modes.

The new OHSU clinics will host expanded clinical trials that Druker hopes can convert his team’s scientific discoveries into next-generation detection tests, tools and treatments.


Jun 25, 2015
Andy Giegerich
Portland Business Journal


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