Scientist invests in own institution

Leeds chemistry professor donates £250k to fund research into new drugs, writes Melanie Newman

April 29, 2010

A professor who decided not to keep the money he made from consultancy work has donated a quarter of a million pounds to his university.

Philip Kocienski, professor of organic chemistry at the University of Leeds and former head of its School of Chemistry, for years invested the consultancy fees he earned in his charity, the Biomolecular Research Fund. Over the next five years his donation will support research into new drugs at the Leeds Institute of Process Research and Development.

Professor Kocienski said: "Early on I made a policy decision not to take this money for myself. The charity has made a number of smaller gifts over the years, but I really wanted to allow it to accrue. Now I am delighted to be able to support the institute and its research into the safe, economic, innovative synthesis of new drugs."

Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor at Leeds, said: "Professor Kocienski could have done anything he wished with these funds; his decision to invest in his own university's research excellence is absolutely fantastic, and we can be very pleased and proud at this incredibly generous expression of confidence in our institution."

The act of generosity by a serving member of staff follows a £1 million donation earlier this year to the University of Warwick by Lord Bhattacharyya, director and founder of its manufacturing unit, WMG.

Meanwhile, the University of Oxford has raised $50 million (£32.4 million) in a year, to match a pledge by one of its long-standing benefactors, computer scientist James Martin. Dr Martin made the pledge on top of a $100 million donation in 2005, which was used to set up the James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford.

The new funding will support 20 cross-disciplinary projects at the school, exploring matters such as food and fuel security, the future of cities and vaccine design.

Dr Martin, an alumnus of Oxford, decided to sink part of his fortune into the university because "it has the capability to do the best scholarship on complex subjects".

He added: "When the matched funding scheme was announced, many people said this is crazy timing; the Oxford vice-chancellor and I disagreed with them. Some foundations and wealthy individuals give money in bad times if the cause is exceptionally important."

Thirty different donors, including financiers George Soros and Adrian Beecroft, charities and research bodies, have had their donations matched by Dr Martin.

Mr Beecroft, former chief investment officer at Apax Partners and founder of the Beecroft Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Oxford, raised $1 million for research into new developments in computing.

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