Peter Michael Foundation: Raising a Glass for Research

reprinted from Issue 24, Spring 2017 of Frontiers of Medicine (PDF)

Sir Peter Michael

With expertise in everything from technology to wine, Sir Peter Michael is a Renaissance man. The engineer and entrepreneur’s accomplishments include founding several technology companies, including Quantel, which transformed television graphics. He later co-founded Classic FM, the first commercial radio station in the United Kingdom, and established a luxury hotel and restaurant in England. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989.

With expertise in everything from technology to wine, Sir Peter Michael is a Renaissance man. The engineer and entrepreneur’s accomplishments include founding several technology companies, including Quantel, which transformed television graphics. He later co-founded Classic FM, the first commercial radio station in the United Kingdom, and established a luxury hotel and restaurant in England. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989.

While working in Silicon Valley in the 1970s, he fell in love with Northern California. Michael bought a ranch in Calistoga and established the Peter Michael Winery, which he runs with his son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Emily Michael. His vineyards produce some of the world’s top wines – a Peter Michael Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Au Paradis 2012 was chosen as Wine Spectator’s 2015 Wine of the Year.

He also established a philanthropic foundation to support innovative treatments for prostate cancer. The Peter Michael Foundation hosts dinner auctions across the United States, with exquisite meals prepared by famed chefs like Thomas Keller. “People come from all across the country for the food and wine,” said Walter B. Menzel, the foundation’s chief executive officer and executive director. “They come as guests, and leave as friends.” The proceeds from these events support cutting-edge prostate cancer research at four top cancer centers across the country, including UCSF.

Even before its potential became widely known, the Peter Michael Foundation began supporting cancer immunotherapy. For the past six years, the Foundation has funded a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Lawrence Fong, MD, Efim Guzik Distinguished Professor in Cancer Biology, who directs the UCSF Cancer Immunotherapy Clinic and co-leads the Cancer Immunotherapy Program of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The resources from the Peter Michael Foundation have made a big impact on our research program,” said Fong. “They provided consistent support year after year at a time when cancer immunotherapy was not the high-visibility field that it is now. This allowed us to make continued progress positioning our program for even greater successes.”

These research projects have included identifying biomarkers that may help determine which patients are most likely to respond to immunotherapy, and studying whether combining immunotherapy treatments could lead to more robust clinical responses.

“We fund really smart people who are working on innovative, high-risk projects,” said Menzel. “Immunotherapy has great promise. We’ve all read about ‘superresponders’ – people who are right in the sweet spot, and the cancer is completely gone [after receiving immunotherapy]. But those people are few and far between. What was it in that patient and that treatment protocol that connected so effectively, and can you replicate that at scale?”

The Peter Michael Foundation (petermichaelfoundation.org) hopes its support hopes their support will improve the efficacy of immunotherapy for more patients.

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