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June 7, 2018

New York, NY (June 7, 2018) -- On Wednesday, June 6, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation raised more than $2.6 million at its Annual Breakfast to support innovative scientists working to prevent, detect and treat all forms of cancer. It was the highest fundraising total ever for the event.  The Breakfast, held at the iconic Cipriani 42nd Street in New York, honored Leon G. Cooperman, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, Inc., and Damon Runyon Board of Directors member, for his longstanding commitment to investing in new generations of researchers.

“Our Annual Breakfast is always a special time for us at Damon Runyon, as we honor and recognize those who continue to fuel the success of our organization from both a research and business advisory standpoint,” said Lorraine Egan, President and CEO of Damon Runyon.  “Not only was this year’s event record-breaking in terms of fundraising, it also gave us an opportunity to recognize an individual who is integral to supporting our mission of finding and funding exceptional scientists who will be the driving force to end all suffering from cancer.”

Since joining the Damon Runyon board in 1996, Cooperman – known as Lee – has managed the Foundation’s Investments Committee, helping to grow its endowment by 500 percent, to over $100 million. In 2014, he and fellow board member Michael Gordon pledged to jointly fund Damon Runyon’s Physician-Scientist Training Award program for its first three years. The program supports and encourages outstanding recent medical school graduates to pursue cancer research careers by providing them with the opportunity for a protected research-training experience under the mentorship of a qualified and gifted mentor.  In addition, the Foundation will retire up to $100,000 in medical school debt still owed by an award recipient.

Cooperman spoke with great fondness about his 26-year relationship with the organization, noting how Damon Runyon continues to evolve year-over-year in providing grants to the most brilliant, early career scientists.“Winston Churchill said it best, ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.’ My goal has always been to improve the world and leave it a better place than when I came into it, which is why I initially got involved with Damon Runyon over 20 years ago. They fuel the vision of researchers across the country, by providing the funding and support they urgently need to discover radical ways to prevent, diagnose and cure all forms of cancer,” said Cooperman.

Kenneth G. Langone, Founder and CEO of Invemed Associates LLC, introduced Cooperman, his longtime friend. Also attending the event were Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, MD, Shelly Lazarus, former CEO of Ogilvy, and Mario Gabelli, Founder of GAMCO. Guests heard  research updates from Melody Smith, MD, a Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who is focused on improving outcomes for bone marrow transplants, and Kristopher R. Bosse, MD, a Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who is pursuing a new targeted therapy for pediatric neuroblastoma. “As a physician-scientist myself, I can truly appreciate everything this foundation does for these scientists, especially physician-scientists, who are a dying breed,” said William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD, Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Damon Runyon Board Member and Vice Chair of the Foundation’s Scientific Programs, and keynote speaker.

Egan also announced that Damon Runyon has named John Ferrarone, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine, the “Lee Cooperman Physician-Scientist of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation” in Cooperman's honor. Dr. Ferrarone works under the mentorship of Dr. Varmus.  His research focuses on developing new, more effective targeted therapies for lung cancers.