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Stephen Fry, Griff Rhys Jones and Sir Terry Matthews unveiled as Cardiff research patrons

10 January 2011

Cardiff University today unveils three high-profile patrons for its new Research Institutes, who will champion the vital work of each Institute.

The University created the Institutes to pursue new approaches to pressing concerns about cancer, mental health and sustainability. Their three new patrons are:

Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute – Stephen Fry

Sustainable Places Research Institute – Griff Rhys Jones

Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute – Sir Terry Matthews

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 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 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 in designing sustainable policies for the development of cities 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."

Sir Terry Matthews is well-known as an entrepreneur in high technology, and has founded and funded more than 80 companies in the UK and Canada. 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."

The three new patrons were unveiled as part of the official launch ceremony for the Institutes, held at Cardiff University tonight (January 10). Guests saw a video address in which each patron endorsed the work of their institute.

The Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, 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."


Notes to Editors

The three new patrons will be announced at the official Research Institutes launch ceremony at the Julian Hodge Lecture Theatre, Cardiff University at 5.30pm on Monday, January 10. The patrons will not be present but will make video addresses. Media are welcome to attend and senior university figures will be available for interview. For further information, please contact:

Stephen Rouse,
Public Relations Office,
Cardiff University.
029 2087 5596

Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry was born in 1957. At Cambridge University, he met and worked with, among others, Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie, a life long friend and comedy partner. The Footlights revue he wrote and performed with Thompson, Laurie and Tony Slattery won the first ever Perrier Award and was televised by the BBC. There followed Alfresco, a comedy series for Granada (along with Laurie, Thompson, Ben Elton and Robbie Coltrane) three series of Blackadder with Rowan Atkinson (and Hugh Laurie again), four series of A Bit of Fry and Laurie with Hugh Laurie (both for the BBC) and also with Hugh, four series of Jeeves and Wooster for Granada TV and WGBH Boston.
He hosts the BBC quiz show QI, appeared in Absolute Power with John Bird for the BBC and in numerous single dramas for television, including Tom Brown’s Schoolboys and most recently the series Kingdom for ITV. He has also presented the documentaries The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which featured Cardiff University’s Professor Nick Craddock, HIV and Me and The Machine That Made Us, all for the BBC. Stephen’s documentary series, Stephen Fry in America, a journey through all 50 America states, aired in the UK in 2008. November 2009. His documentary series, Last Chance to See, was filmed in remote parts of the world and revisits endangered species that Douglas Adams first reported on 15 years ago.
As a stage actor he performed in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On, Michael Frayn’s Look, Look, Simon Gray’s The Common Pursuit and Cell Mates). He won a Drama Circle award
and a Tony Nomination for his work on the revived musical Me and My Girl which ran on Broadway and in the West End. His numerous film appearances have included award-winning performances in Peter’s Friends, Wilde, Gosford Park, V for Vendetta and Eichmann. He wrote and directed Bright Young Things in 2003.
He has written four best-selling novels, two volumens of autobiography, and a book on poetry form, The Ode Less Travelled. He is well-known among a younger generation as the reader of the audiobook versions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.

Griff Rhys Jones

The seminal sketch show of the 80’s Not The Nine O’ Clock News was Griff’s first of many run-ins with success. The prolific Smith and Jones followed, winning an International Emmy during its 11 series run. On radio Griff has also had great success, with the Sony Award winning Do Go On and the Griff Rhys Jones Show for Radio Two. He has been directed on stage by some of theatre’s leading names including; Sam Mendes, Alan Ayckbourn, Nick Hytner and Sir Peter Hall. Griff is also proud owner of two Oliviers, the acting profession’s premiere award.
Griff starred in cult comedy hit Wilt amongst other feature films and has a vast television drama resume, including the lead in Russell T. Davies’ Mine All Mine. He worked extensively in advertising as a writer, director and performer. He was recipient of a prestigious Gold D and AD, the highest creative award in the United Kingdom. He setup Talkback as a Radio production company. It became the most successful radio creative house in the world and diversified into television in the early Eighties. Before it was sold in 2000, Talkback Television had produced award winning television and launched the careers of Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan and Sacha Baron Cohen amongst many others.
Griff has worked extensively as a television presenter, including introducing Bookworm and the Nation’s Favourite Poem. Whilst making three series of the hit architecture show Restoration, Griff found time to write and present three separate documentary films, on Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling and John Betjeman, all receiving huge acclaim.
He sailed his small boat to St Petersburg in 2003. The account of that trip "To the Baltic With Bob" made a well-received best seller. In 2006 Griff published his second book Semi Detached, a memoir of suburban baby-booming to universal critical acclaim and huge commercial success.
The adventures continued in 2007 as Griff took on the mountains of Great Britain, in the stunning series Mountain for BBC 1. The accompanying book, written by Griff and published by Penguin is a stunning and highly personal account of that epic trip to the top of our beautiful country. In 2009, his book Rivers: A Voyage into the Heart of Britain was published by Hodder and Stoughton. It accompanied the BBC1 series of the same name.

Sir Terry Matthews

Sir Terence Matthews is the founder and Chairman of Wesley Clover, an investment vehicle and holding company. Terry has either founded or funded over 80 companies since 1972 including Newbridge Networks, a company he founded in 1986 and which became a leader in the worldwide data networking industry. When France-based Alcatel acquired Newbridge in May 2000, the company employed more than 6,500 employees and recorded FY 1999 revenue of $1.8 billion. In 1972, before launching Newbridge, Terry co-founded Mitel, a world leader in the design and manufacture of enterprise communications solutions. Wesley Clover now has interests in a broad range of next-generation technology companies, real estate, hotels and resorts.
In addition to being the Chairman of Wesley Clover, Terry is also Chairman of a number of private and publicly traded companies including Mitel, March Networks, Bridgewater Systems, Solace Systems and Counterpath and sits as a director on the Boards of several others.
Terry holds an honours degree in electronics from the University of Wales and is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by several universities, including the University of Wales and Carleton University in Ottawa. In 1994, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was awarded a Knighthood.

Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute

The Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute will help consolidate Cardiff University’s position as an international leader in the field of neuroscience and mental health research.
Psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders remain leading causes of death and disability across the world, and modern medicine continues to struggle to make a significant impact in these areas. Better treatments and prevention are desperately needed. To meet this challenge we need a greater understanding of the causes and mechanisms underlying these disorders. Advances in genetics and in understanding how the brain works means there is now the realistic prospect of making such advances over the next ten years. This will require collaborative, inter-disciplinary efforts to bring cutting-edge neuroscience to bear on these illnesses.
The Research Institute draws together experts from across Cardiff University – from the Schools of Medicine, Psychology, Biosciences and Optometry and Vision Sciences to develop new programmes of neuroscience research, to take new discoveries and translate them into greater understanding and diagnosis of mental illness.
Cardiff University is already a world-leader in neuroscience and mental health research. Cardiff scientists have played a major role in the recent identification of the genetic origins of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. In total, over 108 neuroscientists and researchers from across the University work in neuroscience and mental health research and hold some 22% of the University's research income. In the last research assessment exercise, research covering Psychology, Psychiatry and Neurology and Clinical Psychology saw University research ranked amongst the UK's very best.
Covering the full lifespan - from autism and ADHD in children, to adult psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease in the elderly, the Institute’s work will help translate the fundamental discoveries made by Cardiff neuroscientists into a greater understanding of disease mechanisms, classification and diagnosis.

Sustainable Places Research Institute

The Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University will make new connections in sustainability research.
It will work to find pragmatic, policy-led locally-based solutions for individual cities, regions and nations by providing a new scientific ‘meeting place’ for sustainability science focussed on exploring more integrated place-based options and solutions.
The Research Institute’s mission is to bring together leading scholars and research clusters across academic disciplines to explicitly address the question of how cities and their regions - which are all developing under different combinations of market and governance arrangements - can adapt and be guided towards more sustainable spatial strategies. The disciplines include city and regional planning and applied social and psychological sciences, business and law, biological and earth sciences, engineering, architecture and health.
The Institute will place stronger emphasis on sustainable living in sustainable places by studying the complex and dynamic interrelations between ecology, society and economy. By studying these interactions at local, national and international levels, the Institute will place itself at the centre of global debates, and establish itself as a leading international location for the emerging field of sustainability science.
The Institute will develop a comparative city-region research hub bringing together theory, empirical research and policy adaptations amongst a series of selected city regions. The Institute’s activities will be achieved through the six interlinked research programmes:

• Transitions and adaptations in selected city-regions
• Security, risk and resilient places
• Resilience and adaptation in coupled physical, ecological and social systems
• Health and connected communities
• Adaptive governance for social and ecological transitions
• Adaptations around mobilities, flows and migrations

Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute

The Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute aims to establish Cardiff University an international leader in the field of cancer stem cell research. The ultimate intention is to develop new cancer therapies which will make a real difference to the lives of patients.
Cancer stem cells offer the potential to transform the way disease is tackled. While they make up a small part of any tumour, there is evidence that they play key roles in the creation and growth of tumours, and the way they spread around the body. If this is correct, it may be possible to treat cancer more effectively by concentrating on the stem cells alone, rather than all the cells in the tumour, as current treatments do.
Cancer stem cells have already been shown to be capable of initiating leukaemia. Work conducted at Cardiff shows they also play a role in the onset of skin cancer. However, the situation with other types of cancer is presently less clear.
The Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute intends to resolve these questions. It will create and grow eleven research groups looking at different aspects of cancer stem cells and different types of cancer. It will investigate the most common cancer types, including blood, skin, colon, breast, lung, prostate, pancreatic and urological.
The Institute will attract and nurture international research talent in this field, from the most senior level to the most promising postgraduate students. The research teams will be made up of key international players in fundamental science, translational science and clinical trials. The Institute will also build on Cardiff University’s existing strengths in basic science, in the development of new drugs and therapies, and in the planning and conduct of clinical trials.
The Institute will act as a catalyst for new collaborations both across the University and with UK and international partners. Cardiff intends to be recognised as the UK Centre for cancer stem cell research, attracting support and funding from organisations and individuals keen to see breakthroughs in the field.
The initial task will be to improve understanding of cancer stem cells and the role they play in a range of cancers. The Institute also aims to understand better why existing treatments can fail. From there, the intention is to develop new therapies which can be shown to make a real difference in the clinic. Ultimately, the aim is to transform the survival rates for patients suffering from all types of cancer.