Omar Boraie’s investments have ranged from revitalizing New Brunswick to funding cancer genomics.
At the March 4 event celebrating his establishment of a chair in genomic science at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Omar Boraie, a real estate developer based in New Brunswick, seemed more comfortable chatting with the assembled guests than being the object of pomp and ceremony.
In New Brunswick, there are no buildings bearing his name, no Boraie Tower to burnish his brand. But Boraie and the business he founded, Boraie Development, have helped transform the city. As Rutgers president Robert Barchi noted at the ceremony, the longtime donor to the university is a man with exceptional foresight: when Boraie looked at the blighted city that was New Brunswick in the 1970s, he saw possibility. And when he learned about the budding science of genomics, which personalizes cancer treatment by examining tumors at the molecular level, he saw possibility unlimited.
Boraie earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry in his native Egypt and came to Rutgers University–New Brunswick to pursue a doctorate. In the process of buying a home, he discovered a flair for real estate. Upon learning that New Brunswick had been a thriving commercial hub, he thought he could help it thrive anew. When other real estate professionals greeted the idea with strong skepticism, he responded, simply, “It will work.”
It did. Boraie’s investment in New Brunswick—his firm developed Albany Street Plaza Towers I and II, the luxury residential tower The Aspire, and many other important buildings—helped revitalize the city. Through the Omar Boraie Chair in Genomic Science, he hopes to do the same for cancer research—an interest kindled when, as a donor to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, he met young cancer patients. After speaking with administrators and researchers from the Rutgers Cancer Institute, he knew where he wanted to put his efforts. And, in characteristic fashion, he seized a unique opportunity to maximize his impact. His $1.5 million gift toward the chair was matched, dollar for dollar, through a $27 million challenge grant created by an anonymous donor to establish 18 new endowed chairs at Rutgers.
Shridar Ganesan, the inaugural chair holder and associate director for translational science, says that the award is an honor that will allow him and his colleagues “the freedom to explore novel ideas.” He’s convinced, he says, that genomics “will someday be a standard part of treating every cancer.”
That fits in with Boraie’s vision for New Brunswick and the future of cancer treatment. “My goal in life,” he says, “is to see New Brunswick be the center of research and development, and the Rutgers Cancer Institute to be the largest in the U.S.A.”