Phil Knight and wife give OHSU $125M for cardiovascular institute

Phil Knight and wife give OHSU $125M for cardiovascular institute
Phil Knight (file image)

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon Health and Science University announced a "transformational" $125 million gift from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, for the foundation of a cardiovascular research institute.

The hospital promises the new institute will speed the development of treatment strategies for cardiovascular disease and get them to patients faster.

"The gift is the largest in OHSU history and may likely be the largest private contribution ever made by living donors to benefit a single Oregon organization," the university announced in a news release. "It is the Knights’ second landmark gift to OHSU, following a 2008 pledge of $100 million that advanced the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute."

The donation will establish the OHSU Cardiovascular Institute, the goal of which is to "accelerate new prevention, diagnostic and treatment strategies being developed in the laboratory and transition them into patient care clinics as rapidly as possible."

The gift is expected to help in recruiting donors and bridging the co-called translational gap between the data found in research and its application in a clinical setting.

“Phil and Penny Knight have made a gift to all Oregonians,” OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., said. “OHSU is proud to have once again earned their trust as a partner in creating a healthier Oregon and a healthier world. Phil and Penny share our confidence that we can finally reduce the many, many preventable deaths each year due to cardiovascular disease by innovating, collaborating and educating.”

“Penny and I are pleased to help upgrade cardiovascular health in Oregon and around the world. Drs. Starr and Kaul have built a great program in research, care and outreach, and we are excited about what it can contribute to the fight against these deadly diseases,” Phil Knight said in a statement.

OHSU Foundation interim president Constance French says the gift is "changing the game" in the field of cardiovascular medicine.

OHSU physicians Albert Starr and Sanjiv Kaul will lead the project, aiming to confront the entire spectrum of cardiovascular disease, from prevention to regeneration of tissue after a heart attack. The gift is "changing the game" in the field of cardiovascular medicine, said Constance French, interim president of the OHSU Foundation.

The $125 million donation is the largest in OHSU history. Hospital spokeswoman Tamara Hargens-Bradley said the hospital has no plans yet to announce whether the institute will require new construction.

"It's all being sorted out right now," Hargens-Bradley said.

Starr, a surgeon who performed Oregon's first open-heart surgery and the state's first transplant, arrived at the hospital in 1958. Starr also implanted the world's first artificial human heart valve in 1960.

"We know from personal experience that the most meaningful innovations happen when clinicians and researchers work together across disciplines to solve big problems," Starr said in comments distributed by the hospital. "That idea will be hard-wired into the culture of this institute."

Part of the purpose of the center is to partner with pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers to get from the research stage to clinical applications sooner.