I attended the annual Cancer Centre symposium last week which included excellent talks from scientists in the Clinical School, from Biochemistry, and also from the Babraham and Sanger Institutes. The Cancer Centre has a compelling vision, which is to harness Cambridge Science in order to change the way we treat cancer. We heard the excellent news last week that the Centre’s renewal application to Cancer Research UK was ranked as Outstanding and was awarded more resource than we requested. Getting more money than you ask for is an impressive achievement. Excitingly, Cambridge’s application to be a ‘Super Centre’ was given the go ahead, which will lead to substantial additional funding for cancer research here. The two other ‘Super Centres’ will be in Manchester and Oxford. An enormous amount of work from many people across Cambridge went into this application, which was led by Sir Bruce Ponder and Carlos Caldas. Many congratulations to them and the whole cancer community.
Last week I also attended the annual dinner of the Academy of Medical Sciences. The AMS is only 15 years old but has already proved to be very effective in providing a unified voice for biomedical research. At the dinner, Sir John Walker (MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit) received an Honorary Fellowship and the Princess Royal was admitted as a Royal Fellow. Both made memorable acceptance speeches, with John Walker paying particular tribute to Fred Sanger who had died only two days before. Earlier in the day Dr Akhilesh Reddy (Clinical Neurosciences) had been awarded the Foulkes Foundation medal, and Sir Mike Stratton (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute) had given an excellent Jean Shanks Lecture on cancer genomes. It was an enjoyable evening, and very good to see scientists from Cambridge featuring so prominently.
The third event I’d like to highlight over the last couple of weeks is the annual MB PhD symposium. Eight students who have spent about two years on their PhD presented to a large audience including representatives of the funders who support the course. Sir Peter Lachmann (who coincidentally was the first President of the AMS) was one of those who asked probing questions. The day reinforced my view that the Cambridge MB PhD course provides an outstanding training for clinician scientists. It was striking that several of the students were undertaking their PhD in the LMB or the Sanger. The School – and the students – owe a great deal to Professor Tim Cox (Medicine) who has put enormous energy into directing this successful programme for 24 years.
Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the student pantomime, ‘Star Wards’. A huge amount of work had clearly gone into the production, and it was great to see the cast having so much fun. Dr Diana Wood (who had a walk on part) assures me that they put even more work into their medical studies…