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The Wistar Institute Cancer Center to be Renamed with $10 Million Gift from Caplan Family to Advance Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA — (March 8, 2022) — The Wistar Institute announces that Ronald Caplan, founder and president of PMC Property Group, Inc., and his wife Ellen have donated $10 million to Wistar’s prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, which will be renamed the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center of The Wistar Institute.

The gift to Wistar, the nation’s first independent biomedical research organization, will foster Wistar’s world-leading scientists in their high-impact discoveries toward promising cancer therapies. The investment will also further Philadelphia’s growing recognition as a life science innovation hub.

“Despite recent progress, cancer is still a feared disease carrying enormous morbidity and mortality for patients and their families. Ellen and Ron’s vision is to change that: their generous gift will dramatically accelerate the pace of innovation and discovery at our renowned cancer research center,” said Dario C. Altieri, M.D., president and CEO of The Wistar Institute, director of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center, and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “We are enormously grateful to the Caplans for their unwavering support and transformative leadership as we prevail in our mission to discover new ways to detect, treat, and defeat cancer.”

The Caplans have deep ties to Wistar. Ronald has been a member of the Institute’s Board of Trustees since 2009; in 2014 he and Ellen donated the 200-seat high-tech Sarah and Matthew Caplan Auditorium in the Robert and Penny Fox Tower – named for their children in the hope that cancer’s cure would be found in their lifetime.

Wistar’s Cancer Center became the nation’s first NCI-designated cancer center for basic research in 1972 and is among only seven such centers in the U.S. to continuously hold this distinction for a half century. The Cancer Center has a history of impactful advances in cancer genetics, cancer biology, tumor immunology, and virology, including the identification of genes associated with different tumor types, the development of monoclonal antibodies used to study pathways and proteins involved in tumor development, and contributions to improved cancer treatments and diagnostic tests.

Achieving NCI’s highest ranking of “exceptional” in the last two consecutive Cancer Center Support Grant renewal applications, the Cancer Center now becomes one of only a few named biomedical research cancer centers in the country.

The newly envisioned Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center will help transform the prevention and treatment of cancer by advancing fundamental and translational research into next-generation therapeutics. This will involve expansive recruitment of new leaders in cancer research focusing on key areas of treatment resistance, metabolic and cellular reprogramming, cancer systems biology and personalized anticancer strategies.

“Ellen and I are honored to invest in the source of scientific discovery – the scientists whose life-changing breakthroughs will continue to bring us one step closer to a future without cancer,” said Ronald Caplan.

“Wistar scientists are some of the most dedicated, brilliant people we have ever met. Thanks to their incredible work, Wistar is the one place where every time Ron and I leave, we feel inspired,” said Ellen Caplan.

Learn more about the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center below.

Note: Photos are available on request.


The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.

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