Sunday, Sep 24

Giovanis’ $35 Million Gift Brings Hope through Cancer Research

Tuesday, May 23 516

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ted Giovanis has carved his path through life by going against the odds. Whether it’s been beating the federal government in a court case involving Medicare reimbursements or being a competitive IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge team owner/driver at age 77.


Now, Giovanis is taking that same approach after recently announcing a $35 million donation to create the Giovanis Institute for Translational Cell Biology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Through the gift, scientists will study how cancer metastasizes, or spreads through the body, in the hope of discovering commonalities in the ways different cancers spread and leading to new therapies that may limit or prevent metastasizing in a patient’s body altogether.


The generous donation, a 15-year commitment, comes from the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy, named in honor of Giovanis’ wife who died from metastatic breast cancer in 2010.


“I think of myself as someone who wants to make a difference, and I can leverage the work of my foundation to a much broader and more impactful scale by providing this gift to Johns Hopkins,” Giovanis said when the donation was announced on May 10.


Giovanis stressed in a follow-up interview that he wants to change how medical research is done in the United States. Too much research, he says, focuses on confirming hypotheses that are likely to be proven before the research begins. What Giovanis wants through the Giovanis Institute is to encourage research without guarantees of success. The path to innovative treatments may lie outside the realm of traditional research thinking. At the least, undertaking unconventional research projects could help rule out a path to take.


“Like in racing, sometimes you try stuff and not know if it’s going to work until you do it,” Giovanis said, drawing the parallel to what he sees with Team TGM at the racetrack. “You may make wing or air pressure adjustments and see what happens. We can accept that what we just threw on the car may not work.


“Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do,” he adds. “In research, (most) only invest in things that they know are going to work out. That leaves a lot of exploration where interest might lie, and that’s the space that we play in. … That’s what’s potentially transformative about this. It will lead to better findings.”


Giovanis said he opted to partner with Johns Hopkins because of the vision of Dr. Andrew Ewald, director of the Department of Cell Biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was named director of the Giovanis Institute. Ewald, Giovanis said, is just as passionate about exploring unique avenues of research with no assurances of successful outcomes.


The initial focus will be on how breast cancer metastasizes, but Giovanis said there are commonalities in the ways different cancers spread, so the research may benefit those other types as well.


“If you look at the cancer cell as a seed, it’s looking for someplace to go (when it spreads),” Giovanis explains. “If we can find out what it’s looking for, maybe we can test for that. … If we can know how it operates, we believe there will be ideas that emerge on how we can disrupt that – how it metastasizes and lands someplace.”


Using another racing analogy, Giovanis considers the JKTG Foundation’s donation to create the Giovanis Institute like the fuel that goes into the car. From there, it’s up to the crew, engineers and drivers to take it across the finish line.


“We’re trying to make a difference,” he says. “I’ve been pretty fortunate in life so this is a way to give back, but I’m not going to be the one to make a difference. It’s Andy Ewald and all those people, it’s that team.”


Photo credit: Team TGM

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for, where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

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