Texas Medical Center Record
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center receives $150 million gift from United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates' Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, founded by former UAE President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, has given the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center a record $150 million gift.
The donation will reportedly fund M.D. Anderson's Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, a new endeavor to be co-led by President Dr. John Mendelsohn after he retires this summer.
"This is a transforming gift," Dr. Mendelsohn tells CultureMap. "The goal of the institute [which will be called the Khalifa Institute, after the current Sheikh] is to bring together researchers here who are working on one objective, which is to take a patient's tumor, find out what the genetic abnormalities are that drive that tumor, and then to prescribe drugs that have been designed to attack those specific abnormalities."
The 600,000 cubic-foot facility (according to the Emirates News Agency) will reportedly be called the Zayed bin Sultan Cancer Treatment Clinic and contain both a specialty institute for cancer diagnosis and a pancreatic cancer center.
Mendelsohn calls Sheikh Zayed, for whom the building is named, "sort of the George Washington of the United Arab Emirates" for his efforts in pulling the nation together after World War II, and calls his recent trip to Abu Dhabi to sign the deal "a very moving event."
"They're very proud that they can help advance medical care and medical research. The foundation is interested in two things: Health and education. Cancer is a problem that they, from what I gather, wanted to make an important contribution to, and we're fortunate that they picked us to do this."
The gift, which has been in the works for about four years, is the single largest donation ever given to a Texas Medical Center institution, and will additionally fund three chairs as well as a number of annual fellowships.
It's a fine cap to Mendelsohn's nearly 15-year career at M.D. Anderson, and still just a glimmer of his vision.
The original genome project took three years and cost $3 billion. Today, we can sequence a genome in three weeks for $10,000 or $20,000, and eventually we'll be able to do it in a week or less for less than $1,000. The other exciting thing is the drug companies are developing drugs designed to attack the products of these abnormally functioning genes, so in the future we can select the right drugs for the right patients.
This research is not paid for in the most part by insurance, because we haven't proven that it works. We're doing the research to figure out how to do this right, and then it will become standard in practice. The dream is, five years from now, that for each of the 30,000 patients we see each year, we have a better opportunity to provide them the right treatment.