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$125M Gift Will Create OHSU Cardio Institute

Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny have donated $125 million dollars to Oregon Health and Science University. The money will be used to create a new institute for cardiovascular research.

OHSU officials announce the biggest donation in the institution's history.

OHSU officials announce the biggest donation in the institution’s history.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

University President Joe Robertson said the gift is the largest in OHSU’s history.

“This is big,” he said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this. And what transpires because of today’s event will end up giving hope to so many individuals.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Robertson says he hopes the institute can help change that.

Dr. Albert Starr, who helped invent and implant the first artificial heart valve in the 1960s, will lead the new cardiovascular institute. He said the aim is to bring clinicians and researchers together to take lab discoveries and turn them into new treatments for heart disease.

“It will be very scientifically-based,” Starr said. “It will be people-based. It will be collaborative. It will be relationships with industry, it would involve the primate center. It will be a complex organization.”

Starr will be working with Dr. Sanjiv Kaul, who said one goal is to have experts from vascular surgeons to cardiologists in one place, so that they can work together.

“After all, the same blood clot causes a stroke, as it causes a heart attack, and yet we have two special different fields,” Kaul said. “We have to bring them together so that we can talk to each other and try to understand what causes both heart attacks and a stroke.”

The university said the money will be used to recruit heart disease experts and hold more clinical trials. The institute may require a new building, but OHSU officials said it’s too early to know whether that’s necessary. 

Neither Phil nor Penny Knight attended the annoucement.

This donation comes just four years after another gift from the Knight family. In 2008 they pledged $100 million dollars for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. 

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