OHSU’s new early cancer detection center lands 5-star recruit

Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute announced its first major hire since meeting its $1 billion challenge last year.

Sadik Esener, a PhD with a broad engineering background, was recruited from the University of California-San Diego to direct the institute’s Center for Early Detection Research, the first large-scale early cancer detection program of its kind.

Esener’s achievements range from developing diagnostic biochips to creating nanoscale “smart bullets” that deliver treatments to tumor cells. Technology he developed has underpinned the launch of numerous startups.

Currently, Esener serves as a professor of nanoengineering and electrical and computer engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. He has also led UCSD’s Cancer Nanotechnology Center of Excellence.

“Our goal requires that we completely reimagine early detection, so we were insistent on recruiting a leader with a track record in game-changing innovation,” Knight Cancer Institute Director Dr. Brian Druker said in a statement.

“We needed someone with proven skill in both assembling and leading a highly diverse team of life scientists, engineers and computational experts in a unified direction. There are an extremely small number of individuals with this combination of skills and experience, and Sadik Esener is among them.”

While Esener is not an oncologist, he has expertise in an array of scientific and engineering disciplines that are relevant to early cancer detection research. His team will build liquid biopsy biochips that can serve as early warning tools to gauge disease risk.

OHSU met its goal to raise $500 million last June, triggering a matching grant by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.

Esener, who will start his new role this summer, was awarded the Wendt Family Endowed Chair in Early Cancer Detection at OHSU. The Richard L. Wendt Family Foundation is providing ongoing support for Esener’s role.

Stay tuned for another post later today with excerpts from interviews with Esener and Druker.


Elizabeth Hayes
Staff Reporter
Portland Business Journal
Mar 7, 2016

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