OHSU: More than halfway there in Phil Knight challenge

OHSU: More than halfway there in Phil Knight challenge
Phil Knight

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon Health & Science University said it has raised $286 million in its effort to meet a challenge from Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

Knight last year offered to donate $500 million toward cancer research at OHSU if the Portland school can raise an equal amount by Feb. 4, 2016.

The Legislature last week approved $200 million to help meet the goal, and OHSU officials said Wednesday they have so far collected $86 million in private pledges and donations.

That means there's $214 million left to go. If OHSU fails in its collection drive, then it gets neither the Knight money nor the legislative help.

"We're well past the halfway point," said Dr. Brian Druker, director of OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute, which was named for Knight following a $100 million gift in 2008.

"It gives us enough confidence that we can get started now," he said. "We are starting the planning of the buildings. We will start to recruit."

OHSU said it has gathered 3,700 donations and pledges from 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. They include 20 gifts of at least $1 million as well as more modest donations from bake sales and other efforts. Genevieve Olson Rocha, an 8-year-old Portland girl whose grandfather has cancer, raised $710 by making and selling rainbow bracelets.

Druker, a high-profile researcher who developed cancer drug Gleevec, plans to recruit 20 to 30 top scientists to conduct groundbreaking research in to the early detection of cancer, which is known to improve survival rates. The scientists will work in two buildings planned for Portland's south waterfront.

Druker said Knight was informed of the fundraising progress on Monday and was "delighted."