President Charles Vest announced yesterday that David H. Koch, a 1962 graduate of MIT and executive vice president and member of the board of Koch Industries, Inc., the nation's second-largest privately held firm, has pledged $25 million to support cancer research at the Institute.
Mr. Koch has committed $2.5 million per year for 10 years to support cancer research in MIT's Department of Biology, which is home to the Center for Cancer Research (CCR). Four faculty members in the department have won the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology since 1968: Har Gobind Khorana, the late Salvador Luria, Susumu Tonegawa and Phillip Sharp, who heads the department.
"David Koch's magnificent gift speaks in a personal way to the direct importance of fundamental scientific research to human health and well-being," Dr. Vest said. "It is also a strong testament to the world-class quality of our biology department and Center for Cancer Research. David is a great philanthropist and we are all deeply grateful for his support of this critically important activity."
"MIT has done wonderful things for me, and some of the success I've enjoyed in this world has been due to the fantastic education that I received here at the Institute," Mr. Koch told the Corporation, MIT's governing body. "So, because I've gotten so much benefit from MIT, I felt that it was appropriate for me to return the favor and do something nice for the Institute."
Mr. Koch earned an undergraduate degree and master of science from MIT in chemical engineering. He also starred for MIT in basketball, establishing an MIT record by scoring an average of 21 points per game over three years. He was captain of the team in his senior year, 1962.
Mr. Koch, who said he gives away half his income every year, is a strong supporter of cancer research at different institutions around the country. In addition, contributions from Koch Industries, its foundations and the Koch family have provided millions of dollars to human service organizations, educational and cultural groups.
Through its world-renowned biology department and 25-year-old Center for Cancer Research, MIT has made and continues to make major contributions to basic cancer research.
MIT was the first institution to clone an oncogene from a human tumor. Researchers here also study the genes that fight tumors, how tumors begin and grow, and on a intracellular level, how cells reproduce, grow, repair themselves, die and even commit suicide in a form of programmed cell death called apoptosis.
Three current members of the biology faculty are Nobel laureates, 24 are members of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 are investigators of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and 13 are members of the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
"The research in the CCR at MIT is built on our strengths in molecular biology, genetics, cell biology and immunology," said Professor Sharp. "Truly novel advances in cancer research come from deeper understanding of the molecular and cellular bases of cancer. Basic research leads to the discovery of new targets for therapy and new diagnostics and offers one of the best hopes for combating cancer.
"Gifts such as Mr. Koch's make it possible for MIT to support the most cutting-edge new approaches to innovative basic research," said Dr. Sharp, the Salvador E. Luria Professor of Biology.
Koch Industries is involved in virtually every aspect of the oil and gas industry. The company, which employs 16,000 people, with 2,000 at headquarters in Wichita, KS, also is involved in chemicals, chemical technology products, agriculture, hard minerals, real estate and financial investments.
David Koch's father, the late Fred C. Koch of Wichita, was the company's founder. He developed a version of the widely used thermal cracking process for refineries, which increased gasoline yield. David Koch joined the company in 1970, following his brother Charles, who is chairman and chief executive officer.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 10, 1999.