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OHSU recruits nanotech leader to guide institute's early cancer detection program

COURTESY PHOTO: OHSU - Sadick Esener will join OHSU this summer to lead the  Knight Cancer Institute's early detection program.Sadick Esener, a scientist who has developed diagnostic biochips used in nanoscale cancer-fighting smart bullets, has been named to lead the Oregon Health and Science University Knight Cancer Institute’s early detection program.

OHSU officials said Monday that Esener would direct the institute's Center for Early Detection Research and has been awarded the Wendt Family Endowed Chair in Early Cancer Detection. They said technology Esener developed launched many start-up companies, including five from his labs in Southern California.

Esener is a professor of nanoengineering and electrical and computer engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. Most recently, he led the Cancer Nanotechnology Center of Excellence, funded by the National Cancer Institute, at UCSD's Moores Cancer Center to explore ways to use nanoscale devices to detect and target cancerous tumors.

Esener’s recruitment comes months after OHSU's successful completion of the $1 billion Knight Cancer Challenge. Nike Inc. co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, challenged the university to raise $500 million and matched that amount to fund the institute.

A gift by the Richard L. Wendt Family and the Wendt Family Foundation ensures support for Esener's role. It is the second such endowment created by the Wendt Family to advance discoveries to end cancer.

The director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Dr. Brian Druker, is the Jeld-Wen Chair of Leukemia Research.

"Our goal requires that we completely reimagine early detection, so we were insistent on recruiting a leader with a track record in game-changing innovation,” Druker said. "We needed someone with proven skill in both assembling and leading a highly diverse team of life scientists, engineers and computational experts in a unified direction. There are an extremely small number of individuals with this combination of skills and experience, and Sadik Esener is among them.”

"I was drawn to OHSU because the leadership shares my dedication to effectively integrate disciplines such as cancer biology, oncology and medical engineering to focus on the challenge of cancer early detection,” Esener said.

Esener will join the OHSU program this summer. His first task will be to recruit 20 to 30 scientists and staff to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute's Center for Early Detection.