Just this past Friday night in Portland, Ore., cancer research got a bold and unexpected boost from Nike’s co-founder. At a gala event for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Phil Knight offered up $500 million for cancer research with a single condition attached: OHSU must match it in the next two years.
The man who inspired this gift is Dr. Brian Druker, the director of Knight Cancer Institute. He approached Knight requesting $1 billion for the institute within the past few months, he told The Oregonian, the exact amount he believes it would take to ignite dreams of finding a cure for cancer there at OHSU. "There's no reason that we can't, and won't, become the premier cancer institute in this country," Druker said. Referring to Phil Knight's and Penny Knight’s generosity and what will amount to a national fundraising bid, he added, "They've challenged us, but they've also challenged the nation in some respects."
Druker’s achievements in the area of the molecularly targeted anti-cancer drug, Gleevec, earned him the prestigious Lasker Award, which is among the most respected science prizes in the world. Some consider him to have begun the revolution in personalized cancer medicine. Druker stated in an OHSU press release that the Knights’ pledge would be a catalyst to address the next major challenges in cancer research; it is expected that the gift will enable the university to further explore the possibilities of cancer treatment and early detection on a molecular level.
In all likelihood, the cash infusion would also elevate clinical care across the region, permitting patients in the Northwest to have access to what would likely be some of the best clinical trials in the world. "There is a real urgency. People are dying, everyday. We have to cure cancer now," OHSU President Joe Robertson told The Oregonian.
"It is incumbent on everyone of us to do what he or she can to keep the miracles coming," Knight stated in an OHSU press release. The institution, which has been named in Knight's honor, is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. According to his company’s website, Knight led NIKE "from a small partnership founded on a handshake to the world’s largest footwear, apparel, and equipment company." At 75 years old, he continues as chairman on the board.