help to make the world a better place,” he says. “Building this
institute is part of that dream. I have seen, at first hand, how the
benefits of healthcare research have translated into improve-
ments in the quality of life to the sick and infirm. Cambridge
University is one of the world’s beacons of learning, and I have
great faith that the research conducted in the centre will prove
to be invaluable medical advancement to the world.”
been breakthroughs: Professor Ponder and his teamhave refined a
system of genetic profiling that will allow women at higher risk of
developing breast cancer to be identified, and screened, earlier.
“Our team at Cambridge has created a bit of a stir inter-
nationally,” says Professor Ponder. “Our potential has been
recognised and people are looking at what we are doing with
great interest. Such a large investment has given us a great
sense of responsibility. We are very conscious of doing the
best we can.”
Project scientists are now working in a purpose-built, fully-
equipped facility that is the envy of the world. The GBP50 mil-
lion Li Ka Shing Centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Cam-
pus was funded jointly by Cambridge University, Hutchison
Whampoa Limited and Cancer Research UK, plus a range of
other donors, and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II. It will
augment the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, which is al-
ready up and running.
The first holder of the Li Ka Shing Professorship of Oncol-
ogy, worth GBP2 million, is Professor Ponder. “The generosity
of Mr Li has inspired and made possible in Cambridge a new,
internationally excellent centre for cancer research,” he says.
“My colleagues and I are truly grateful for this further demon-
stration of his support.”
Mr Li has been a strong supporter of Cambridge University
for some time. He contributed to the new wing of the Churchill
Archive – built to house the papers of Baroness Thatcher, the
former prime minister – and in 2000 established the Li Ka
Shing Programme for Cambridge Scholars, funding a series of
lectures and research visits to China by Cambridge academics.
It will be future generations who benefit from what is hap-
pening now in the labs of Cambridge under the supervision
of Professor Ponder and his team. The more science knows
about a particular cancer – the way it develops, the people
more susceptible to it, the way it mutates – the better doctors
are equipped to deal with its effects.
“If we can find out which people are high risk, we can begin
to understand what makes them high risk and why they are at
risk,” says Professor Ponder.
In other words, if the root cause can be established, the easier
it is to examine how that can be dealt with and, ultimately, if not
in this generation then the next, find a way of curing the disease
that is the scourge of the modern world. There can be few more
noble callings, working long hours often in isolation with the
goal of helping alleviate human suffering and misery.
It was admiration for such dedicated professionals that led Mr
Li to support the project. It was, he says, a deserving cause that
fulfilled a lifetime ambition of wanting to help fellow citizens.
“It has always been my dream that knowledge and caring can
The more science knows about a particular cancer – the way it
team of top scientists,
headed by much-respected Bruce Ponder, work
at the Cambridge research centres.
Professor Ponder, 63, has had a long and distinguished
career in cancer research and treatment;the many awards
and honours on his CV testify to the high regard in which
he is held by fellow scientists.
Having such a world-renowned figure in charge, tak-
ing on administrative and managerial duties that are a step
away from his first love
– research – was a major
coup for the project.The
boss also acted as a mag-
net for other talented and
ambitious scientists; they
reasoned that if Bruce
Ponder was on board,
there must be something
rather special happening.
“My research was go-
ing pretty well when
I took this job,” says Professor Ponder, whose wife is a
trained nurse.“It is a big administrative responsibility, but
our potential here has been recognised and there is a
great deal of interest. A lot of people have invested here
and we are very conscious of the responsibility.”
The professor remains head of oncology at Cambridge
University in addition to being a director of the Cancer
Research Institute, co-director of the Hutchison/MRC
Research Centre and head of a research team looking
into the genetic predisposition to cancer.
Other people working with Professor Ponder are es-
tablished specialists in their own fields. They include Pro-
fessor Ron Laskey (DNA replication and early detection
of cancer), Professor Ashok Venkitaraman (cell cycle con-
trol and cancer drug resistance), Dr James Brenton (ovar-
ian cancer genomics), Professor Kevin Brindle (imaging
tumour responses to therapy), Professor Carlos Caldas
(breast cancer genomics), Dr Nick Coleman (early diag-
nosis of cancer), Dr John Griffiths (preclinical and clinical
imaging), Professor David Neal (androgen resistance in
prostate cancer), Professor Fiona Watt (stem cells and
epithelial biology), Dr David Tuveson (pancreatic cancer)
and Professor Simon Tavaré (biomolecular computing).
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