Foundation gives $20 million for cancer research building

The Nevada Cancer Institute, which recently laid off staff and said the worsening economy has hurt donations, got a big boost Saturday in the form of a $20 million pledge from the Engelstad Family Foundation.

Specifically, the funds will be used to support construction of the institute’s 183,000-square-foot research building, which is being constructed near the facility located in Summerlin.

Kris Engelstad-McGarry, daughter of former Imperial Palace owner Ralph Englestad, said if her father were alive today he’d be right alongside the institute searching for a cure for cancer.

“We are doing exactly what he would have wanted us to do,” Engelstad-McGarry said Saturday, just hours before the Engelstad Family Foundation was to present the gift to the institute at a philanthropic event at the Red Rock Country Club. “We honestly believe there’s a cure.”

Saturday’s donation is the second such donation by the Engelstad Family Foundation in recent years.

In 2006, the foundation donated $15 million to further lung cancer research and educate the public about its prevalence and screening.

Ralph Engelstad died of lung cancer in 2002.

Heather Murren, chairwoman and co-founder of the Nevada Cancer Institute, said the donation helps “us be able to accomplish what we’ve started.”

She said the new research facility is a critical component in recruiting top physicians and scientists.

“They want space to do their work,” Murren said.

The research building is scheduled for completion in late 2009 and is expected to house 36 individual laboratories on three floors, as well as a core laboratory to support clinical research.

In 2007, the organization generated a little more than $50 million in contributions, down from $66 million in 2006. The figures include gifts, grants, and government support.

Jennifer McDonnell, a spokeswoman for the cancer institute, said the research building is partly being funded through bank loans. The Engelstad donation means the cancer institute will not have to borrow as much, she said.

The new research building will be named the Ralph and Betty Engelstad Cancer Research Building.

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