Mike Milken has been a catalyst for funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the extensive medical programs of the Department of Defense (DoD). Mike has testified repeatedly before both houses of Congress and brought together public policy leaders to map more effective disease-fighting strategies. In 1995, he organized the first National Cancer Summit and presented a 10-point program, much of which has been adopted. That same year, he organized a conference at the Food and Drug Administration that led directly to legislation, signed by President Clinton, accelerating approval of cancer drugs. In 1998, he was co-chairman of The March, which brought together 600 organizations in the largest anti-cancer advocacy event in history. 150,000 people in Washington and 300,000 around the U.S. demonstrated for increased government funding. (Government funding of cancer research doubled in the five years after The March.). In 2012, he hosted "A Celebration of Science," which brought together national leaders to honor scientific achievement and draw attention to its profound human, social and economic benefits.
FasterCures (www.fastercures.org), a think tank – or as its staff calls it, an "action tank" – is dedicated to accelerating cures and improved treatment outcomes for all deadly and debilitating diseases. Based in Washington, D.C., FasterCures evaluates the entire research process, identifies barriers to progress, engages people and organizations, and produces proposals for economic incentives and regulatory efficiencies that accelerate scientific discovery.
Public Health As important as research is to finding medical solutions, Milken believes that it's equally important to pursue prevention and wellness initiatives because preventing disease in the first place is as good as a cure. He convened national and international public health leaders at the 2014 Public Health Conference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And George Washington University announced the renamed Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in recognition of a gift from the Institute. In 2016, the Milken Institute hosted the first-ever Public Health Summit in Washington, convening 500 deans of schools of public health, philanthropists, global health leaders, corporate CEOs, international diplomats, members of Congress and the Administration, disease-specific organizations, health providers and insurers. The goals? To increase bi-partisan collaboration among public health institutions; raise public awareness; demonstrate the social and economic benefits of public health; and reaffirm a global commitment to protecting and preserving health. Read about Mike's lifetime of working on public health initiatives.
Mike began to focus on cancer in the 1970s. This focus became a formal program in 1982 with the establishment of the Milken Family Foundation (www.mff.org), which was endowed with several hundred million dollars. The Foundation has long supported basic and applied research in several disease categories. The story of Milken's medical philanthropy is told in the book, A Call to Action, published in 2004. Additional details are in a Fortune magazine cover story, "The Man Who Changed Medicine," November 29, 2004.
Programs and contributions by the Milken Family Foundation have made a difference in the battle against several serious diseases, especially many forms of cancer and pediatric neurological disorders. In the 1980s, Mike endowed a chair at the Dana Farber Cancer Center, was the primary benefactor of the Venice Family Clinic (which serves tens of thousands of people), and gave his time and resources to a wide range of medical causes. The Milken Family Medical Foundation was established in 1982 and provided grants to keep many young cancer researchers in their labs when they were tempted to pursue more-lucrative clinical practices. "Of all the programs we've supported over the last generation," says Milken, "the biggest payoff in terms of social benefit has come from the awards to young investigators." Among those who received awards in the 1980s were Dr. Dennis Slamon, who later discovered Herceptin, a revolutionary breakthrough in the treatment of one type of breast cancer; Dr. Steven Rosenberg, who has reported a major breakthrough in the development of successful gene therapy that for the first time in history harnesses the body's own immune system to shrink tumors; Dr. Bert Vogelstein, who did pioneering work on the incalculably important p53 gene, whose mutant form is believed to be involved in more than half of human cancers; Dr. Owen Witte, whose subsequent work provided the basis for the development of the breakthrough drug Gleevec, now used as a frontline therapy for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia; Dr. Lawrence Einhorn, who developed a highly successful chemotherapy regimen for testicular cancer; Dr. Philip Leder, a pioneer in molecular biology who contributed to the deciphering of the genetic code; Dr. Charles Myers, who went on to become Chief of the Clinical Pharmacology branch of the National Cancer Institute; and many more. In addition to his personal contributions, Mike has been tireless in raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the public to support medical research.
Since the 1980s, the Milken Family Foundation has given hundreds of Young Investigators awards and fellowship grants to support basic and applied medical research in order to accelerate new therapies for people living with epilepsy and seizures.
Mike Milken worked closely with leading physicians and philanthropists to launch the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) (www.melanomaresearchalliance.org), bringing more focus to the fight against the most deadly form of skin cancer. Currently, melanoma patients have less than a 15-percent chance of surviving five years. The MRA, through research grants, is dedicated to extending life for those patients, and to an eventual cure.
In 1993, Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) (www.pcf.org), whose competitive research grants to 1,500 research scientists worldwide make it the world's largest philanthropic source of funds for prostate cancer research. A BusinessWeek cover story surveyed Milken's "quest to cure cancer." It reported that scientists "are convinced they're close to unraveling [its] biological details. And Milken 'has done more to advance the cause' than anyone." Charles Myers, M.D., president of the American Institute for Diseases of the Prostate, says simply, "Mike revolutionized the field." Dominick Dunne wrote in Vanity Fair that one doctor told him Milken's support "had advanced the study of the disease by 40 years."
In his 2005 book, Dr. Peter Scardino's Prostate Book, the eminent New York surgeon writes, "Through the Herculean efforts of Michael Milken and his dedicated colleagues at the Prostate Cancer Foundation, private research funding has made great strides ... This remarkable organization with Milken at the helm has worked tirelessly and effectively to promote public awareness of the disease." In the Foreword to A Call to Action, a book documenting the history of the PCF, the former Director of the National Cancer Institute says that "few people have done more to advance the fight against serious diseases than Mike Milken." A 2004 article in Forbes said, "Prostate cancer, once a research backwater, is suddenly sexy thanks to the work of one patient: Michael Milken ... 'Milken is probably the single most effective layperson advocate for cancer research,' says former National Cancer Institute director Samuel Broder." The PCF has supported the research leading to every major advance against the disease since the mid-1990s (including FDA approval of several breakthrough drugs).
The PCF's annual Scientific Retreat has become what the Journal of the American Medical Association says is "one of the major events in the war on cancer." Before the PCF, academic researchers rarely spoke to their counterparts in large pharmaceutical companies; biotechnology investigators and government regulators had no forum for an informal exchange of ideas; and clinicians had little knowledge of how computer scientists could enhance their therapies. Mike Milken brings the world's leaders in these and other fields (including journalists and legislators) together each fall to report findings and explore innovative strategic approaches to treatments and cures.
Medical researchers used to spend up to one third of their time completing complex grant applications and then waiting months or years for an answer. By the time an answer came, their proposed research had often become obsolete. The PCF broke the mold with five-page grant applications and answers in 60–90 days. Other organizations, including government agencies, have followed this lead by streamlining their application process, often by as much as 75 percent. This leads to faster, better research and, ultimately, lives saved.
Since the mid-1980s, the Milken Educator Awards program has honored thousands of outstanding teachers and principals in cooperation with state Departments of Education across America. By honoring the nation's leading educators, the program strives to attract, retain and motivate talented people to the challenge and adventure of teaching. Each educator receives an unrestricted award of $25,000 and participates in annual conferences and other professional activities that focus on best practices for the nation's three million teachers.
In 1999, the Foundation launched the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) to restructure and revitalize the teaching profession, while producing measurable gains for students. BusinessWeek included TAP on its Best Practices Top Ten List (June 26, 2006), reporting that "teacher turnover in TAP schools is just half the national average. And in most TAP schools, test scores have been significantly higher." Former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings noted that "in Arizona and South Carolina, student achievement in TAP schools outpaced achievement in similar schools two-thirds of the time. The message is clear: When we treat teachers better, students perform better." In 2006, the TAP Foundation was renamed the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) with the expanded mission to operate the Teacher Advancement Program and a Teacher Quality Best Practices Center. The Teacher Quality Best Practices Center provides technical expertise to education entities implementing a range of teacher quality reforms, including performance pay.
The Milken Scholars program has assisted hundreds of extraordinary students with special needs because of immigration status (60 percent of their parents were born outside the U.S.), poverty, unstable family situations and other issues. More than members of a simple scholarship program, these kids are virtually adopted by a caring staff that assists them with multiple aspects of adjusting to college life, including travel arrangements, clothing and book purchases, and other services throughout four years of college and, in many cases, graduate school. Over the years, the majority of Milken Scholars have attended such elite universities as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia, Penn, M.I.T., Brown, Princeton and Cornell.
Mike's Math Club is a curriculum enrichment program that shows elementary school students that math can be useful and entertaining. The Math Club team consists of full-time teacher–mentors who pay regular class-time visits to thousands of children in inner-city schools. Tens of thousands of students have participated. Mike devised many of the techniques and regularly teaches classes.
Mike has supported advanced scientific studies of the relationship between diet and health. This work led to the publication of Mike's Taste for Living cookbooks on healthy eating. These activities help support ongoing research-grant programs.
For decades, the Milken Family Foundation has been supporting the Milken Family Literacy and Youth Training Center of the Los Angeles Urban League. This center helps minority youth – including teen parents, high school dropouts, ex-offenders, welfare recipients, and the economically disadvantaged – to fulfill their potential and enter the workforce. Each student participates in a comprehensive program of employability assessment, testing and counseling; pre-employment skills training; computer literacy; and basic remediation. The Milken Center has trained more than 100,000 people and, as one of the nation's first such programs to focus on computer training, it has launched thousands of these students on information-technology careers.
The Milken Family Foundation Festival for Youth is a community service program that helps teach young people, including those living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and those with special needs, that everyone can make a difference to the wellbeing of society. The Festival accomplishes this by channeling youngsters' time, energy and creativity into constructive service projects aimed at improving the communities where they live. Initiated in the 1980s, the program has reached more than one million children. Students, school personnel and community organization leaders design Festival for Youth community service projects at sites around the country.
The Michael and Lori Milken Education and Therapy Building at The Help Group was dedicated in 1996. The Help Group is the largest facility of its kind in California, serving some 6,000 children with severe emotional and learning needs. Mike has been personally involved with The Help Group since the 1980s and has often taught math classes there.
Caring for Children, a charity founded in 1986 with a grant from the Milken Family Foundation and supported with annual Foundation grants ever since, has provided hundreds of thousands of teddy bears to children in two dozen countries wracked by violence or natural disasters. Founder Samantha Grier says a teddy bear is more than a toy: "It can serve as therapeutic intervention for children suffering posttraumatic stress syndrome."
Hailed by The New York Times as "a lesson on how to connect the eye to heart and mind," the Skirball Cultural Center has established itself as one of the world's most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions, and among the most prominent cultural venues in the United States. The Skirball Milken Gallery, for which the Milken Family Foundation was the lead benefactor, contains exhibits that explore the connections between four thousand years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals.
A musical adventure of historic proportions, the Milken Archive of Jewish Music: The American Experience was founded in 1990 to document, preserve, and disseminate the vast body of music that pertains to the American Jewish experience. Over more than two decades, the Milken Archive has become one of the largest collections of American Jewish music ever assembled—more than 700 recorded works, including over 500 world premiere recordings. Known for its groundbreaking 50-CD series released on the Naxos label between 2003 and 2006, the Archive's collection includes more than 800 hours of oral histories, nearly 50,000 photographs and historical documents, and thousands of hours of video footage from recording sessions, interviews, and live performances, plus an extensive collection of liner notes and essays that place the music in historical and cultural context. In 2009, the Milken Archive launched an online virtual museum website as its primary platform for releasing new recordings and exhibiting its vast collection of multimedia assets. With the advent of the Milken Archive and its virtual museum, music lovers, educators, cantors, conductors, composers and the general public of all faiths will be now able to appreciate and enjoy what the Chicago Tribune has called "The most comprehensive documentation, ever, of music reflecting Jewish life and culture in America." Visit www.milkenarchive.org.
American Friends of The Hebrew University is a national, not-for-profit organization that provides programs, events and fundraising activities to support The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel's foremost center of higher education and research. The Milken Family Foundation is a major sponsor.
Ariel University, the largest public college in Israel and one of that nation's fastest-growing academic and research institutions, has established the Milken Family Campus, encompassing its teaching and research laboratories, as well as its library, main administration building and computer center. The Milken Family Foundation has supported Ariel University for many years.
In 2007, Mike led a delegation of world-renowned leaders in science, medicine and technology to confer with their counterparts in Israel and to meet with heads of the government. Their objective was to help leverage Israel's world-class human capital to play a greater role in addressing such global needs as disease cures, clean technology, more productive agriculture and alternative energy. Mike met with Israel's Prime Minister and President.
In 2015, Mike and Lori Milken made a $10-million gift to help establish the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem Campus.