In 1985, Dr. Thomas Grogan thought that diagnostic cancer tests took too long and revealed too little. So he set out to improve the process.
He partnered with John Patience and Jack Schuler, Illinois-based investors, to make it happen. At the time, Grogan was a professor in the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He specialized in the study of cancer of blood and immune cells. Through his work, he founded Ventana Medical Systems with one impactful goal: revolutionize how we sample and analyze tissue for cancer — making it faster, easier, more effective and precise.
Patience and his firm, Crabtree Partners, provided the initial capital that made Grogan's innovations possible. This resulted in the world's first instruments to automate and standardize tissue biopsy testing. But the work didn't stop there. Over the years, Patience and Grogan worked together to revolutionize the field of cancer diagnostics, drastically improving patients' experiences and outcomes.
Their success attracted the pharmaceutical company Roche, a global leader in cancer drug therapy, which bought Ventana Medical Systems in 2008. Patience has since helped build two other innovative medical device companies: Accelerate, a Tucson-based microbiology company, and Biodesix, a cancer diagnostic company based in Boulder, Colorado.
To honor Grogan's accomplishments, Patience and his wife, Diane, have pledged $1 million to create the Dr. Thomas M. Grogan and Candace C. Grogan Endowed Fund, which will support students and faculty in three key areas in the UA College of Science: chemistry, biochemistry and mathematics.
"John Patience and Tom Grogan are both visionaries. Their ideas have changed our world," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science. "Of course, in the College of Science we're working to do the same thing. To me, it's fitting that John has honored Tom with this award and chosen the College of Science to implement its impact."
"The impact that John Patience helped make possible through the UA, Ventana and now Roche is what UA researchers aspire to every day," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "This gift is a wonderful way of celebrating the partnership with Dr. Grogan, and it will help to ensure that the UA continues to build upon the strong academic and innovation qualities so important to its success. I am very grateful for John and Diane Patience's generosity and their commitment to the potential for future innovations coming from UA students and faculty."
For John, the gift honors his friend and business partner, and it also sets the stage for future innovations.
"It took 20 years to reach global status and economic success," said Grogan, professor emeritus of pathology at the UA. "But in the many years we lost money and fell short, John never lost faith. John personifies the virtues of long-term investment. This gift not only generously acknowledges my contribution, it also recognizes the UA as a Research I university that contributes to the pool of talent needed to create a global biotech company. Both John and I want to see the UA College of Science continue to flourish under the leadership of Dean Joaquin Ruiz."
The Patiences have made an initial gift to establish a $200,000 endowment and have pledged to raise that amount to $1 million. They hope the endowment eventually reaches $2.5 million or more.
As the fund grows, it will support different facets within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Mathematics. To start, the endowment's proceeds will provide scholarships to undergraduates. Eventually, the endowment also will support postdoctoral fellows and innovative research. All told, the gift is intended to generate knowledge and cultivate talent, setting a stage that emulates the success of innovators like Grogan and Patience.
"Ventana was conceived in a University of Arizona lab," the Patiences said. "Further, its discovery and development labs are staffed with many graduates from the University's College of Science. We wanted to recognize the importance of both the University, in getting Ventana launched, and of Tom, the doctor and professor who made it happen."
The Patiences' gift puts the UA closer to its goal of raising $1.5 billion during Arizona NOW, the comprehensive fundraising campaign distinguished by its unprecedented scope and focus on improving the prospects and enriching the lives of the people of Arizona and the world. The gift also directly contributes to two of the campaign's strategic areas of focus: empowering innovative thinkers and enhancing the student experience.