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Research institutes officially launched

14 January 2011

The three new University Research Institutes have been officially launched on Monday 10 January 2011, with the announcement of three high-profile patrons.

The Institutes, all of which involve School of Biosciences academics were created to pursue new approaches to pressing concerns about cancer, mental health and sustainability. Their three new patrons, who will champion and promote the work of each, are:

  • Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute – Stephen Fry
  • Sustainable Places Research Institute – Griff Rhys Jones
  • Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute – Sir Terry Matthews

The three patrons were unveiled at a University ceremony in the Julian Hodge Building. Guests heard video presentations from all three, supporting the Institutes' research work. All three Institutes were also presented with a commemorative plaque from the University President, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

The School's Professor Alan Clarke, who has led the formation of the Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, spoke about the Institute's plans and then revealed that Sir Terry would be the new patron.

Sir Terry Matthews

Sir Terry is well-known as an entrepreneur in high technology, and has founded more than 80 companies in the UK and Canada in this field. Born in Newport, he is also known for his commitment to Wales, including the development of the Celtic Manor Resort which brought the Ryder Cup to Wales for the first time last year.

Sir Terry said: "Cancer survival rates still remain tragically low. We have only a very poor understanding of why this is the case. Cardiff's Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute will explore a new concept – that we can beat cancer by focussing on just a small part of the tumour – the cancer stem cell. This idea is creating excitement around the world and the UK should be a leader in investigating it. I am delighted to be patron of the Research Institute at Cardiff and to play my part promoting its search for treatments across the whole range of cancers."

Professor Clarke said: "Sir Terry Matthews has an international reputation for innovation. At Cardiff, we also aim to be a world leader for original thinking on the emerging new science of cancer stem cells. We look forward to an exciting and stimulating relationship with Sir Terry as we search for new ways to beat this disease."

Stephen Fry

Actor, author and comedian Stephen Fry is also known for his work raising awareness of bipolar disorder. A sufferer from the disease himself, he has worked closely with the School of Medicine's Professor Nick Craddock, a pioneer in the understanding of the genetics of bipolar.

The Institute's Deputy Director is the School's Professor Adrian Harwood, whose work involves the understanding of the molecular and cellular effects of mood stabilising drugs on bipolar disorder. Other Institute members include Professors Stephen Dunnett and Anne Rosser, co-directors of the University's Brain Repair Group, based in the School of Biosciences, Professor Vincenzo Crunelli, Professor Frank Sengpiel and Prof Kevin Fox.

Stephen Fry said: "I think mental health research is one of the things that Cardiff University should be most proud of – it's truly on the world map as far as leaders in this field are concerned. I think that the University will have a large part to play in breaking down the barriers of stigma around mental illness. I'm very proud to be playing a small part in it."

Griff Rhys Jones

Griff Rhys Jones made his name as a comedian in series like Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones. More recently he has broadcast and written on conservation and environmental issues, including the BBC series Restoration.

Members of the Sustainable Places Research Institute include the School's Professor Mike Bruford. His interests lie in understanding the factors which predispose animal and plant species to long-term resilience to man-made environmental change. His work has taken him to Borneo to study orang-utans and to China to study pandas.

Griff Rhys Jones said: "It's a very great honour for me to be asked to be patron of this Research Institute and to help publicise the work it is going to undertake. That work is very, very necessary. I firmly believe that human ingenuity is the answer to the problems we face with sustainability. This Research Institute will bring together different disciplines to measure and assess how different places around the globe need to respond to the challenges ahead."