We are only eight weeks away from taking possession of the iconic new building at the front of the University Hospital campus, which will be the headquarters for the Centre for Cancer Immunology. The project is pretty much on schedule and commissioning is proceeding smoothly, with a successful air test completed and fibre optics, gas, electricity and water connections all made in the early summer. It looks great inside, and I look forward to showing you around as soon as we get the keys.
The Centre will bring together the whole research pipeline for cancer immunology under one roof: from discovery science and preclinical modelling, through to first-in-human clinical trials and beyond. In addition to the Clinical Trials Unit, the groups of Al-Shamkhani, Beers, Cragg, Elliott, Glennie, Gray, Johnson, Lim, and Roghanian will be moving into the new building; with the groups of Ottensmeier, Sahota, Savelyeva and Stevenson remaining in the Somers building in order to maintain proximity to their key collaborators. The new building will also accommodate our new appointments who we will attract over the next few months.
The most rewarding aspect of the CCI journey over the past couple of years has been raising the money to pay for it. We have worked closely with Jo Donahoe’s team at ODAR to build on a seed donation of £10m and we have now raised £21.6m against our target of £25m, with just under a year to go on the campaign. Around 4500 donors have contributed, of whom 71% are new to the University. Some highlights from the last year include the £1.3m gift from alumnus, James Vernon and a number of 6 figure gifts from non-alumni in Guernsey. We also got a fair amount of social media coverage after Coldplay made a donation, thanks to drummer and friend of the University, Will Champion. At the other end of the fame-and-fortune spectrum, we had 230 people running the ABP Southampton marathon races for the campaign in April. 120 of these were staff and students and together raised more than £40k and secured widespread local press coverage, as did a sponsored bike ride by the Kier (building contractor) team who raised a massive £11,466. I’d like to thank all of you who have helped fundraise in whatever capacity in this great show of collegiality.
Many of us have spent a lot of time in front of cameras or microphones this year, thanks to the tireless energy of our media relations officer Becky Attwood. Media coverage has gained momentum, with expert comments being put forward to outlets such as the Times and BBC as well as local press and TV. The CONFIRM trial press release did very well, and we got some good coverage around the publication of a paper in Nature Immunology from our Southampton-LaJolla partnership. Also, keep an eye out for an exclusive interview with Freda and George Stevenson in the Observer which we hope will be published over the summer.
Our attention is now turning to the move: a necessary upheaval but with the help of Rekan, a specialist consultancy firm we have appointed to manage and oversee the relocation, hopefully a smooth one. We hoarders who are downsizing have a string of “Sophie’s choices” to look forward to as we un-shelf our collection of Promega catalogues going all the way back to 1998. Anyone need volumes 1-24 of Annual Review of Immunology……….?