Sunday, January 4, 2009

Second Life

Michael Milken was originally known as a visionary securities trader - looking for value in hidden pockets of the market, and finding it by the billions. Tagged the "junk-bond king," he helped transform American business in the 1970's and 80's by providing the funding that made possible massive corporate takeovers. In 1989, he was convicted of securities fraud, jailed, paid fines and settlements of around $600 million total and accepted a lifetime ban from securities trading.

Upon his release, Milken achieved a different kind of fame, as a philanthropist and catalyst for radical change in the way medical research is funded. For decades, he'd worked with his family foundation supporting medical research, the Milken Family Foundation. Then, in the early 1990's, he himself was diagnosed with a prostate cancer that spread to his lymph nodes - an experience that gave him an eye-opening look at how few men were being tested, let alone treated, for prostate cancer. He began to focus his energy on nothing less than re-inventing the processes of medical research.

In 1993 Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a massive and focused effort to combat this sleeping threat. And it has, by many accounts. In a 2004 profile of Milken, Forbes calls the PCF "a significant factor in reducing deaths and suffering from the disease." He's been called, in fact, "the man who changed medicine," with his radical approach to funding and driving change.

"Milken has turned the cancer establishment upside down. In the time it normally takes a big pharmaceutical company to bring a single new drug to market, Milken has managed to raise the profile of prostate cancer significantly, increase funding dramatically to fight the disease, spur innovative research, attract new people to the field, get myriad drugs into clinical trials, and, dare we say, speed up science." - The Man Who Changed Medicine,Forbes Magazine.