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Defeating cancer, one gift at a time

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Susan and Jim Blair

As a venture capitalist specializing in the life sciences, Jim Blair has been involved in the creation of more than 40 biotech companies over the past 35 years. So when he and his wife, Susan, began to support the Salk Institute in 2010, it was something of a homecoming. Through his work, Jim was already acquainted with a number of Salk scientists, including Ron Evans and Inder Verma, and he and Susan knew Salk president William R. Brody and his wife, Wendy, socially.

But it was more than friendship and respect for Salk science that inspired the Blairs to start contributing to the Institute: it was the opportunity to help advance pioneering cancer research. The couple have had their share of cancer and cancer scares in the family, so for them, cancer is personal.

"Susan and I want to support things where we can make a real difference in changing the course of the disease," says Jim. "We don't want to act as if there's nothing we can do about it. We can do something about it, and we feel excited when we see progress being made."

As a longtime follower of the biomedical field, Blair is delighted to see that progress unfolding before his eyes.

"What I think is most exciting is the type of science we are able to do today compared to 10 or 12 years ago," he says. "We're learning how cancer starts and evolves and how to treat it much more effectively, in large part because of our understanding at the molecular level. That's the basis of the research going on with people like Ron and others at the Salk, and it's fantastic."

Beyond Salk, the Blairs also support some of the sister institutions on the Torrey Pines Mesa because they feel the scientific contributions are complementary and very important. "It's a responsibility if you live in this community to support these institutions," Jim explains. "We believe it makes a difference, plus federal sources are very interested in the degree to which the community stands behind the institutions as well."

At Salk, the Blairs hope their commitment will help ensure the continuation of the leading-edge research that takes place there. "Contributions to the Salk work," Jim says. "They're truly making a difference. We're not investing in hope. We're investing in results and in a team that's proven it has the ability to get tangible results."