Phil Knight Announces $1 Billion for Cancer Research

Nike Phil Knight
Phil Knight
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The medical world just got some major ammunition in its battle to cure cancer — a $1 billion donation spearheaded by Nike Chairman and CEO Phil Knight.

In September 2013, Knight and his wife, Penny, pledged to give $500 million to Oregon Health & Science University for cancer research if the school could raise a matching donation in two years’ time.

Today, OHSU announced that it has fulfilled Knight’s ambitious challenge, making history as the largest documented matching donation.

“We did it!,” a triumphant Knight said in a television interview this morning with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, herself a breast cancer survivor. “OHSU got the other $500 million, for a total of $1 billion to contribute to cancer.”

Knight, who was joined on the program by Dr. Brian Drucker, director of OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute, called the fundraising feat “a fabulous moment for OHSU, for people fighting cancer and for the state of Oregon [where Nike is headquartered].”

The $1 billion in funding will be used to construct a state-of-the-art research facility and new cancer-care clinics, hire 250 to 300 new researchers, and support studies of early detection of lethal cancers.

“While cancer treatment has evolved to become more precise and less toxic, the tests and tools used for cancer detection have not changed in decades. Without better, earlier detection and a full understanding of cancer’s origins in the body, the promise of precision cancer medicine cannot be realized,” said Druker, who conducted breakthrough research that led to the development of the Gleevac drug for chronic myeloid leukemia.

OHSU’s fundraising included $200 million in bonds approved by the Oregon legislature and a $100 million individual donation from Gert Boyle, chairman of Columbia Sportswear Co., which is also headquartered in Portland. In all, 10,000 donors from every state contributed, more than half of whom were first-time OHSU donors.

Knight, whose support of OHSU was inspired by meeting a woman who credited Druker with saving her 12-year-old son’s life, said he is proud to champion a cause that affects so many.

“[Cancer is] a disease that touches all of our lives,” said the 77-year-old mogul, whose father and aunt both died of cancer. “These last 22 months [of fundraising] 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.”