The recruitment of world-class scientist Sadik Esener, Ph.D. to join the Knight Cancer Institute as director of the newly created Center for Early Detection Research was made possible by the support of the more than 10,000 donors who contributed to the Knight Cancer Challenge.
From day one, Esener will work to fulfill the vision that inspired the support of so many cancer patients, survivors, family members, business leaders, elected officials and others — starting with Phil and Penny Knight.
When the Knights announced their $500 million matching pledge in September 2013, they made a powerful statement about the urgency of stopping cancer in its tracks and their confidence in Knight Cancer Institute Director Brian Druker, M.D., to lead OHSU’s fight against this disease.
“As I speak, there is a grandfather, a mother, a child, who hugs a loved one he or she would not be able to hug if it were not for Brian Druker,” said Phil Knight to a room filled with OHSU supporters. “It is incumbent on everyone in this room to keep the miracles coming.”
His statement resonated within that room and far beyond. By the conclusion of the Knight Cancer Challenge in June 2015, donors from all 50 states and 14 other countries had contributed, and the fundraising total topped $1 billion, including a $200 million investment by the State of Oregon.
With these resources, Dr. Esener and Dr. Druker will build a team of top scientists focused on tracking lethal cancers to their source so that they can be stopped before gaining a foothold in the body. This funding will free researchers to focus on discovery — rather than grant writing — and to pursue the most promising paths in cancer science. It will provide the infrastructure, equipment and technology needed to advance our understanding of this disease. To accelerate the pace of discovery and maximize our ability to achieve big victories against cancer, big philanthropy is necessary. And as the success of the Knight Cancer Challenge shows, every gift counts.
This infographic shows how the Knight Cancer Challenge is one link in an ongoing chain reaction demonstrating the power of philanthropy to drive scientific progress. A case in point: Dr. Esener will hold the Wendt Family Endowed Chair in Early Cancer Detection. This chair was established by the Richard L. Wendt Family and the Wendt Family Foundation as a continuation of their dedication to advancing new discoveries to end cancer. Their long-time support for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute began in 2001 with their funding of the JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research held by Brian Druker. In the years between those gifts, many important discoveries have been made at OHSU. Each gift brings us closer to our goal, and we will not stop until cancer is defeated. That’s why we’re still raising funds to support this critically important work.
Dr. Esener is just getting started at OHSU, but he brings a wealth of experience, with a track record of leadership, collaboration, and ingenuity. He’ll be joining an existing team of outstanding researchers and clinical leaders. And thanks to the continued support of all our donors, he’ll have the tools to lead the Knight Cancer Institute into yet another period of significant innovation.