Innovative Gift Supports Medicine-Engineering Collaborations at Duke

April 17, 2017

Commitment from Alan and Carol Kaganov will enable new research, education initiatives to improve lung disease outcomes

By Jeni Baker

A generous gift from Duke Engineering alumnus Alan L. Kaganov, E’60, MBA, MS, ScD and his wife, Carol, aims to advance the diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of pulmonary diseases by fostering new collaborations across engineering and medicine at Duke University.

The Kaganovs’ $3 million commitment sponsors two innovative collaborations:

A $2 million gift will create the Kaganov Research Initiative in Pulmonary Medicine and Engineering, which will fund collaborative research between Duke’s engineering and medical schools aimed at tackling and ultimately curing lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis.

Additionally, a $1 million endowment will support the Alan L. and Carol M. Kaganov BioDesign Fellowship, through which Pratt School of Engineering undergraduate recipients will partner with School of Medicine clinicians on real-world design projects that primarily target respiratory function, disease and treatment.

Both initiatives will launch in Fall 2017, with the program administered through Duke MEDx.

Philanthropy critical to reaching next level in lung disease outcomes

The Kaganovs – who have supported Duke Engineering in multiple ways over the years – hope their latest gift will promote breakthroughs in screening, diagnosis, treatment and cures for lung diseases.

A History of Generosity

Alan and Carol Kaganov’s past gifts to Duke Engineering include an endowed professorship in engineering, currently held by Ashutosh Chilkoti; a scholarship that has delivered more than $300,000 in support for nearly 20 BME undergraduates since 1998; a conference room in the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences; and ongoing support through the Engineering Annual Fund, among other gifts.

“There’s potential across the entire spectrum of pulmonary disease to get to the next level of available therapies through increased funding and focus,” explains Alan Kaganov. “From earlier diagnosis and better technologies to improved treatments and outcomes, we want to help advance every step along the way.”

Ravi Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering, believes the Kaganovs’ gift will play a vital role in fostering progress.

“Thanks to Alan and Carol’s support, our students will have a chance to develop solutions to real clinician-derived problems, which will increase their awareness of health care issues in the field and create a pipeline of future leaders in biomedical engineering design,” he says.

“Philanthropy is also increasingly critical to our faculty’s ability to pursue innovative ideas that could result in significant breakthroughs in areas such as pulmonary disease and cancer,” Bellamkonda says. “We are deeply grateful to the Kaganovs for their vision of bringing together faculty from diverse backgrounds to give rise to this kind of creative and transformative research.”

A legacy of impact

That vision has been present throughout Alan Kaganov’s long career, which has seen him involved in virtually every aspect of medical-device development.

Holder of 15 U.S. patents, he has helped develop treatments for conditions including heart, peripheral vasculature, spine and urologic disease. His many roles have included project engineer, R&D director, CEO, and board chairman; for the past 20 years, he has been a successful venture capitalist in health care. He has also served on the Pratt School’s Board of Visitors, which honored him with a 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

“Alan has thought a lot about how he can apply his knowledge and experience to the unmet needs in the field of pulmonary medicine,” says Carol Kaganov, a former writer and editor. “Although millions of people suffer with lung disease, it’s a bit of a stepchild in terms of research dollars and entrepreneurial efforts.”

Ashutosh Chilkoti, the Alan L. Kaganov Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is grateful for both the expertise and support.

“This incredibly generous gift reflects Alan’s longstanding interest at the nexus of engineering and medicine that has defined his professional career, as well as his commitment to improving the treatment of pulmonary disease,” he says.

“The Kaganovs’ gift will not only deepen the research ties between Pratt and the School of Medicine, it will also educate a new generation of students in Alan's image – adept at using the tools of engineering to solve problems in medicine.”

Mary Klotman, Department of Medicine chair and incoming School of Medicine dean, agrees about the importance of collaboration.

“Because advances in engineering are also rapidly advancing medicine, we at Duke are keen to foster more partnerships between our medical and engineering schools,” she says. “This generous gift will help to unite two areas of great strength: our Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.”

Knowing Duke as well as they do, the Kaganovs are hopeful about their gift’s potential. “Duke’s culture of collaboration – coupled with the work already being done between the engineering and medical schools – facilitates engineers, medical doctors, surgeons and researchers putting their minds together to take the next steps in pulmonary medicine,” they say.

“This commitment allows us to do something lasting in that regard, and we know that Duke can create those next steps with value-added collaborations.”

The Kaganovs intend to further this legacy in their estate plans by creating a permanent endowment to continue the research initiative and symposia for years to come.