PHILADELPHIA — A $25 million gift to the University of Pennsylvania from alumni Mindy and Jon Gray will establish a center focused on the treatment and prevention of cancers associated with hereditary BRCA mutations.
The Basser Research Center — BRC for BRCA — will support research on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, harmful forms of which are linked to greatly increased risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The Center is named in honor of Mindy Gray's sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44.
"With their profoundly visionary and generous donation, Jon and Mindy have set the stage for scientific breakthroughs that will transform the lives of women and their families for decades to come," Penn President Amy Gutmann said. "In creating this first-of-its-kind center, the Grays' gift endows Penn researchers and clinicians with the crucial resources required to identify innovative ways to prevent and treat inherited diseases. The possibilities for the future of women's health and cancer research are vast."
Emphasizing outreach, prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship, the Basser Research Center will contribute to all stages of research and clinical care related to BRCA-related cancers.
"We hope that the Basser Research Center will eliminate BRCA-related cancers and, in doing so, provide a road map for curing other genetic diseases," Mindy and Jon Gray said. "We also want to make sure that families have a center dedicated to helping them with the complex issues arising from a BRCA diagnosis. As Penn graduates, we are fortunate that our alma mater has the world-class medical facilities and gifted researchers essential for this mission."
The Center will be located within Penn's Abramson Cancer Center at the Perelman School of Medicine. The gift will create an endowed professorship in the field of oncology to be known as the Basser Professorship, recruit additional faculty, enhance core technologies such as bioinformatics and DNA vaccine production, launch an annual lectureship and establish the Basser Prize to honor cutting-edge research.
"We are very grateful to the Gray family," said J. Larry Jameson, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. "When we have the vaccine for BRCA-related cancers and other powerful preventive and curative strategies, it will be because of Jon and Mindy Gray's transformative gift. Their commitment to a better future for women around the world is inspiring, and it is a privilege to have them as philanthropic partners."
The Grays' gift will support research with a particular focus on interdisciplinary work and an acceleration of bench-to-bedside implementation of scientific findings.
"The Gray family's leadership in establishing the Basser Research Center will truly advance our work and bring us to the day when we can stop entire categories of cancers before they ever appear," Chi Van Dang, director of Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, said. "Abramson Cancer Center faculty and staff are excited about this opportunity to work with these visionary philanthropists and accelerate science to benefit patient care."
Susan Domchek, associate professor of Hematology/Oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine and current director of the MacDonald Women's Cancer Risk Evaluation Center in the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine, will serve as the founding executive director of the Basser Research Center and will lead its strategic direction.
Mindy and Jon Gray graduated from Penn in 1992. The couple has supported the University throughout their 20 years since graduation.
Jon Gray is the global head of real estate at Blackstone, the investment and advisory firm. Mindy Gray is a member of the executive committee of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Inc., the largest private philanthropy in the United States dedicated exclusively to funding ovarian cancer research.
Patients who are interested in learning more about research and care in the Basser Research Center can visit PennMedicine.org/Basser or call 1-800-789-PENN.