The Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre: at the heart of Cambridge’s response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that now, more than ever, the world needs to harness deep expertise and collaborative thinking to tackle a global challenge. And at Cambridge, the power of philanthropy is enabling researchers and scientists to do just that.
What we’ve achieved within weeks would have taken over a year in a normal situation. And that’s down to incredible collaboration.
Professor Ken Smith, Director of CITIID
The new Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre (JCBC) brings together the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID), the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and the Milner Therapeutics Institute. It has been made possible by the generosity of Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah – and is a perfect example of philanthropy with global impact, as Professor Ken Smith, Director of CITIID, points out.
“We have pivoted the entire Institute to focus on COVID-19 research,” says CITIID’s Director, Professor Ken Smith. “All the groups in CITIID work at the interface between pathogens and the immune system, and indeed the Institute was designed to respond to pandemics. But what we’ve achieved within weeks would have taken over a year in a normal situation. And that’s down to incredible collaboration.”
The JCBC gives researchers access to a state-of-the-art new research space. Critically for the fight against Covid-19, it includes the largest Containment Level Three facility in the UK, enabling the safe handling of organisms that present a serious hazard to laboratory workers. The facility has been central to the University’s response to the pandemic and acted as a critical bridge between clinicians and laboratory science. This is exemplified by a study of mild and severe Covid-19 where CITIID researchers have used Addenbrooke’s patient sample to better understand how the disease progresses, predict who is at greatest risk of poor outcomes and develop new therapeutic targets.
In more normal times, JCBC research will focus on therapeutics, diagnostic and regenerative medicine. JCBC scientists are also working on new treatments, especially of immune-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and type-1 diabetes, while others are examining therapeutic approaches for leukaemia, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and progressive autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Dr Cheah is a long-standing supporter of Collegiate Cambridge, a member of the University’s Guild of Benefactors, and a Fellow Benefactor of Gonville & Caius College — and is well known both for his philanthropy and his commitment to “doing well by doing good”. Today, with his help, Cambridge researchers are able to do just that, ensuring that their expertise can be brought to bear on some of the world’s toughest medical challenges.