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High-profile patrons for Research Institutes

11 January 2011

Main Building today

The University has unveiled three high-profile patrons for each of its new Research Institutes.

The Research Institutes 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

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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 Cardiff University’s Professor Nick Craddock, a pioneer in the understanding of the genetics of bipolar. As patron of the Research Institute, he will act as advocate for its work devising new treatments for a variety of brain diseases and breaking down the social prejudices surrounding them.

Stephen FryStephen Fry, Patron of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute

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."

Professor Mike Owen, Director of the Neuroscience and Mental health Research Institute said: "Often ignored and misunderstood mental illness remains one of the key health challenges. Poor mental health affects some 16.7 million people in the UK today.

"Our mission at the Research Institute is simple: to drive the development of new research areas aimed at translating the fundamental discoveries made by Cardiff neuroscientists in the major psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders into a greater understanding of disease mechanisms, classification and diagnosis.

"Stephen Fry is a much loved and highly respected figure, and we are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to become our first Patron to help spread our message and the results of our work.

"We look forward very much to working with him over the coming months."

Griff Rhys Jones, Patron of the Sustainable Places Research InstituteGriff Rhys Jones, Patron of the Sustainable Places Research Institute

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. As patron he will support and encourage the Sustainable Places Research Institute's work on sustainable solutions for individual cities and their surrounding regions, tailored to particular circumstances around the world.

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."

Professor Terry Marsden, Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute, said: "If we fail to tackle current levels of consumption and fail to reduce pressure on the environment, the result is likely not just to have an extreme environmental impact, but also to become one of the greatest public health threats to billions of people worldwide over the course of this century.

"We are privileged to have such an ardent supporter as Griff Rhys Jones. We are looking forward to working with him to stimulate much needed debate, raise the profile of this new Research Institute, and ensure that its work in sustainability science continues to reach the concerns and agenda of governments, the private sector and the public."

Sir Terry Matthews, Patron of the Cancer Stem Cell Research InstituteSir Terry Matthews, Patron of the Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute

Sir Terry Matthews 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. He has now agreed to become patron of the Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, promoting and assisting its hunt for a new approach to cancer treatment.

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 Alan Clarke, lead applicant behind the Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, 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."

Professor Terry Marsden, Professor Alan Clarke and Professor Michael OwenProfessor Terry Marsden, Professor Alan Clarke and Professor Michael Owen

The three new patrons were unveiled as part of the University’s official launch ceremony for the Research Institutes. Guests saw video addresses in which each endorsed the work of their institute.

The Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Grant, said: "The Research Institutes will carry out international quality research on issues of world importance. It is therefore highly appropriate that we have such widely recognised and respected figures to act as patrons. We are delighted that Stephen Fry, Griff Rhys Jones and Sir Terry Matthews have taken on these roles and look forward to working with them over the coming years."

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Watch Sir Terry Matthews offer his support for the Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute
Listen to Stephen Fry talk about the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute's leading research
Watch a video of Gruff Rhys Jones backing the Sustainable Places Research Institute's new approach