e-Matters 11th June 2021

Dear Members and Friends,

Photo of Philippa RobertsIt is a pleasure to introduce this edition of e-Matters. I am particularly happy to bring to you our ongoing projects for the 40 Years of Women at the House celebrations.

I am delighted to have joined Christ Church as the Interim Development Director.  I have been working in the charity world for nearly 25 years, over nine of which were spent as Director of Development at Jesus College, Oxford.

As Oxford colleges go, I may have moved from one of the smallest to the largest. But while the impressive setting is a contrast, the shared goals of engaging with the alumni community and ensuring continued support for students (both undergraduates and graduates), for the tutorial system and for the historic infrastructure mean that I feel on familiar ground. 

I move into the role at a time when things are starting to open up and we look forward with much anticipation (and fingers crossed) to the real-life events that are programmed from September onwards. 

In the meantime, I would be delighted to hear from you.  

With best wishes from us all,
Philippa Roberts
Interim Director of Development


New from the House

Women's 40th Online Celebrations

40 years of women logoChrist Church ✕ PSiCHArt Virtual Art Event

On 30th June, from 5pm to 7pm BST, Christ Church will be holding a virtual art event together with PSiCHArt, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of women undergraduates first coming to the House 40 years ago.

PSiCHArt is a collective intelligence platform that will enable the Christ Church community to create art together by translating vision and ideas into a visual artistic medium. It will be a great opportunity to reflect upon Christ Church's women and its history, and to co-create art that visualises the House’s celebration of a historic moment and think about the future.

Click here to see what PSiCHArt has to offer.

The online creative collective will support and inspire an artist to create art in real-time. Participants can watch the artist create the art via live stream; and they can drop in at any time during two-hour session and take part for as long as they like. We are hoping to bring Junior Members and alumni together through this virtual celebration. The art piece will be displayed in the Women's 40th Anniversary Weekend on 17th-19th September.

We will be sending out a separate email with more information closer to the event, but please do save the date for now. We do hope you can join us!


Call for Nominations for 40th Anniversary of Women at Christ Church Portraiture Project

 Christ Church is commissioning a series of photographic portraits to celebrate the arrival of the first women undergraduates at Christ Church forty years ago. The portraits will be put on exhibition in the Christ Church Visitors Centre in the Thatched Barn, then on long-term display throughout the College. 

We are inviting the Christ Church community—current students and staff, as well as alumni—to nominate sitters for this important project. The only criterion is that all nominated sitters must have a clear connection to Christ Church. 

The nomination deadline for the 40th Anniversary of Women portraiture project is 9am on Monday, June 21st — so please don't delay and click here to submit your nomination suggestions.


Photo of Princess BadiyaWomen at the House Film Series

The fifth in our series of films on Christ Church alumnae features HRH Princess Badiya bint El Hassan.

Princess Badiya was born in Amman, Jordan in 1974, and is the third daughter of TRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath El Hassan. Princess Badiya studied Modern History at Christ Church under Dr Katya Andreyev, and Patrick Wormald. She matriculated in 1992.

Following Oxford, Princess Badiya studied for an LL.M. in Public International Law from The London School of Economics. She was also called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1998, and is a non-practising Barrister. HRH has worked with a number of initiatives to further interfaith and cross cultural understanding, as well as projects to promote human rights, especially the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. She is also involved with various charities and programmes that work to support young people and women.

Princess Badiya remembers the House with great affection, and recalls how the skills learnt studying History have helped her throughout her life to date.


If you enjoyed this film on Princess Badiya, don't forget all the other films in this series can be found on the Christ Church website.

mummified Mercury40 Years of Women at the House collage – don’t miss out!

The collage is growing…but we want more!

As part of our anniversary celebrations, we are creating a collage to showcase the women members of Christ Church (including those who identify as women). So far, we have contributions from alumnae, current junior members, staff and senior members, as well as some historical records from the archives. But, there’s still space, and your photograph could fill it!

We want to hear from everyone, whether it is a reflection of how gender played a role in your time at Christ Church, or simply an anecdote of studying and living here. A sentence will do and send us your photographs too.

This is an important milestone for the House and we want to do it justice. Our collage will be displayed digitally and physically at our anniversary weekend in September, added to the archives and, eventually, the history books.

Please send your submissions to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk, and note that by sending in photographs and writing, you consent to being featured in the collage. Please request permission from anyone featuring in photos before sending them.

As a token of our thanks, we will send you a 40 Years of Women at the House commemorative pin badge. We look forward to hearing from you!

40th Anniversary Silk Scarves

A reminder that our limited-edition 40th Anniversary silk scarf (photo below) can be ordered through the new online shop. To visit the shop please click here. 

Mandy with silk scarf

Events Update

Picture of Tom TowerDear Members and Friends,

With restrictions due to ease, we are delighted to be able to welcome you back to the House soon.

Please see below for the latest events schedule (subject to Government guidelines prevailing at the time):

26 June: Boat Club Society Dinner
4 September: 2020 Leavers Dinner
8 September: Summer Gaudy (1971-1975)
11 September: Board of Benefactors Gaudy
12 September: 1546 Society Lunch
17-19 September: Women's 40th Anniversary Weekend
1 October: Autumn Gaudy (1976-1980)
3 October: Family Programme Lunch

Please pencil the dates in your diaries! We look forward to seeing you soon.


Photo of Homi BhabhaChrist Church elects three new Honorary Students

Christ Church’s Governing Body has elected three new Honorary Students, as part of a tradition dating back to 1858. The newly-elected Honoraries are Professor Homi Bhabha, BA Bombay, MPhil DPhil Oxf, FBA, Professor Clare Philomena Grey, BA DPhil Oxf, FRS, and Dame Emma Natasha Walmsley, MA Oxf, DBE.

Professor Homi Bhabha, FBA; is an Indian English scholar and critical theorist. He is a highly important figure in contemporary post-colonial studies and has developed a number of neologisms and concepts in the field, including hybridity, mimicry, difference, and ambivalence. Born in India, Professor Bhabha graduated with a B.A. from Elphinstone College at the University of Mumbai and later obtained an M.A., M.Phil., and D.Phil. in English Literature at Christ Church. He is a recipient of the Humboldt Research Award and the Padma Bhushan Award. He is currently a Professor of Humanities at Harvard.

Photo of Clare GreyProfessor Clare Grey, FRS; is a multi-award-winning Professor of Chemistry, whose research specialises in applications of nuclear magnetic resonance and its use to study lithium ion batteries. Professor Grey received a B.A. in 1987 followed by a D.Phil. in 1991 in Chemistry at Christ Church. She is currently the Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson Professor and a Royal Society Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Photo of Dame Emma WalmlseyDame Emma Walmsley is the Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). She was the first woman to become head of a major pharmaceutical company when she took the role in 2017 and in 2020 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to the pharmaceutical industry and business. Dame Emma studied Classics and Modern Languages at Christ Church and prior to GSK, she worked for L'Oréal in London, Paris, New York and Shanghai.

Click here to read full article.



Two Christ Church Senior Associate Research Fellows elected Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Photo of Graham OggPhoto of Sarah GilbertThe Academy of Medical Sciences has elected 11 University of Oxford biomedical and health scientists to its fellowship, among whom are two Christ Church Senior Associate Research Fellows, Professor Sarah Gilbert and Professor Graham Ogg. All electees were selected for their exceptional contributions to the advancement of medical science through innovative research discoveries and translating scientific developments into benefits for patients and the wider society.

Professor Sarah Gilbert of the Jenner Institute (Nuffield Department of Medicine) becomes a Fellow for her leading role in the development and design of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, alongside pioneering work to develop vaccines for other life-threatening diseases with pandemic potential including influenza, Nipah, Lassa and MERS. She oversaw the development of the ChAdOx1 viral vector that provided the platform technology for such a rapid vaccine development effort.

For his co-leadership of ground-breaking research into Covid-19 immune response, Professor Graham Ogg of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine (within the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine) is honoured as a Fellow. As well as demonstrating that individuals with mild COVID-19 had a different pattern of T cell response when compared to those with more severe infection, he also continues to lead research into the role of human cutaneous immune responses in mechanisms of disease, treatment and vaccination.

Click here to read full article.


46th Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture

Photo of Prof Malcolm McCullochThe Department of Engineering Science is holding the annual Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture on 17th June.

Professor Malcolm McCulloch, Tutor in Engineering, will deliver a virtual lecture on "The duality of sustainability in the High and Low income countries, with reference to energy - opportunities and challenges" together with Dr Amanda Smyth from St. Hugh's College and Professor David Howey from Stanford University. The lecture will focus on their work to help develop green and renewable energy covering wave technology, improving performances of batteries and developing a sustainable energy system for the 21st century.

Click here for more event information and register for the lecture.



Lant RollFrom the Library...

Dr Cristina Neagu, Keeper of Special Collections of the Library, discusses The Funeral Procession of Sir Philip Sidney, the new addition of our digital library:

The Funeral Procession of Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), also known as Lant’s Roll, is a remarkable object engraved in 1587 and published in 1588. It consists of 31 oblong plates  (numbered 1 to 30, with an unnumbered plate to close the series), customarily mounted on calico in imitation of a frieze. Putting the plates in sequence would create a 10 metres long roll.

This is an item of extreme rarity designed by Thomas Lant (c.1556-1600) and engraved by Theodor de Bry (1528-1598). The whereabouts of the original drawings, and/or of the copperplates is not known. However, given Lant’s position as herald and draughtsman within the College of Arms since 1588, the above institution might hold more information on the topic. Of the printed copies, there are incomplete copies at the British Library and V&A, and a roll is kept at the Society of Antiquaries of London. The only complete set of engravings in pristine condition and not stuck in a roll appears to be at Christ Church.

To see it, please go to Christ Church Digital Library/Early Printed Books and click on The Funeral Procession of Sir Philip Sidney.

Click here to read full article.


Christ Church's Collections displayed in 'Alice in Wonderland' Exhibition at the V&A Museum

Exhibition of Alice in WonderlandA large amount of material from the Christ Church Library's Lewis Carroll collection is now on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ exhibition which runs until 31 December 2021.

Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 157 years, this immersive and theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages. The exhibition has been described as ‘a wonderful tumble down the rabbit hole’ (The Guardian) and ‘an unapologetic celebration of brain-expanding curiosity’ (Evening Standard). 

The exhibition has been curated by Kate Bailey. It is accompanied by a major new V&A publication, featuring specially commissioned illustrations by Kristjana S. Williams and contributors including Tim Walker, Little Simz and Chris Riddell. Christ Church has lent a range of material including photographs of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), many of his original sketches for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (he was disappointed with the results and employed cartoonist John Tenniel to create the now-famous illustrations), manuscript material and prints from Salvador Dali’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland.

Christ Church Library holds three distinct collections of material relating to Lewis Carroll. The whole corpus of the Lewis Carroll collection is currently the object of intense study and scrutiny, being reviewed and catalogued. This is a work in progress. A significant part of the Lewis Carroll collection has now been digitized. More will follow in due course. This project aims to provide an enhanced experience for viewers, allowing them to flip the pages, zoom in, and read very detailed descriptions. The digitized part of the Lewis Carroll collection can be accessed on the Christ Church website.

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He was Tutor in Mathematics at Christ Church in the 1850s. 
Click here to read Jim Godfrey's article on Lewis Carroll on the Christ Church website.


The Key - Tower PoetryWinners of the Christopher Tower Poetry Competition 2021 announced

On Wednesday 21 April, the six young winners of the 2021 Christopher Tower Poetry Competition were recognised for their poetic accomplishments at a remote prizegiving ceremony. This year marked the competition’s 21st anniversary, and so ‘The Key’ was chosen as the theme. The concept was warmly received, with almost 600 UK-based entrants aged 16-18 producing poems inspired by (but by no means limited to) digital, musical, metaphorical, and ordinary metal keys.

Tower Student Peter McDonald was joined on the judging panel by renowned US-based poets Kwame Dawes and Elise Paschen, and all three judges met in March to discuss the entries. It was a formidable task given the range and quality of the writing, and after careful consideration the judges selected six winning poems from the 60 longlisted submissions.

The winners are:

First Prize: Amy Beverley from St Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham, with the poem ‘Dance of the Prisoner’.

Second Prize: Victoria Fletcher from St Paul’s Girls’ School, London, with the poem ‘15 days in a cage with Charlotte Brontë’.

Third Prize: Ayra Ahmad from Dyce Academy, Aberdeen, with the poem ‘Victoria Street’.

Commended: Naz Kaynakcioglu from Exeter College, Devon, with the poem ‘Daughter’.

Commended: Skye Linforth from Sir John Deane’s Sixth Form College, Cheshire, with the poem ‘A House With Narrow Windows’.

Commended: Em Power from Esher College, Surrey, with the poem ‘Ode To All The Locks’.

Congratulations once more to the six winners, and to everyone who entered the 2021 competition.

Copies of the winning poems are available to read on the Tower Poetry website: www.chch.ox.ac.uk/towerpoetry-enter.

Click here to read more about the 2021 Tower Poetry Competition.


Outdoor Cinema for Junior Members

Outdoor cinemaHalf way through Trinity Term, the entertainment reps in collaboration with the Development Team organised an outdoor cinema for Junior Members in the Masters Garden. This event was funded by the Covid Student Support Fund to which alumni have contributed very generously.

From the 14th to 17th May, Christ Church students were treated to screenings of multiple movies, including the likes of Hot Fuzz, Mamma Mia and The Grand Budapest Hotel thanks to generous donations from alumni. Students armed with picnic blankets were welcomed with pizzas and enjoyed a cult classic movie against the backdrop of the Masters Garden. The screenings were met with great success with students coming on multiple nights, enjoying our good fortune with the weather. An amazing feature of the package was the headsets, meaning everyone could hear the movie clearly, no matter where they were sitting. The outdoor cinema weekend ended with a costume competition on the Sunday to mark the start of Arts Week, with appearances from King Julian (from Madagascar) and Mia Wallace (from Pulp Fiction)!
Suli Scatchard, JCR Entertainment Rep, expressed her thanks to all our donors: 'We would like to thank the generous alumni for facilitating such a successful event that allowed our students to relax during a hectic term. It was a brilliant way to hit off our Trinity term whilst enjoying the amazing facilities our college has to offer!'


Christ Church's Mental Health Awareness Week

Yoga classFrom 10th to 17th May 2021, Christ Church JCR and GCR members partook in various activities to reflect on ‘Nature’, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme.

Students explored the gardens with Head Gardener John James, played croquet in the Master’s Garden and enjoyed a BBQ with staff members in some slightly dubious weather conditions.

There were workshops on reducing stress and anxiety, yoga classes and other events in the marquee in the Masters' Garden, kindly funded by alumni via the Covid Student Support Fund. The College Welfare Coordinator and Chaplain's dog also racked up many walking miles over the week!

In one of the two College Life blogs inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week, Jemma Rook, one of the JCR Welfare Reps, talks about welfare support at Christ Church:

"During Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10th-17th), I am sure many of us are reflecting on the challenges of the last year and the impact the pandemic has had on our well-being. It has certainly not been the year Riley Dougan and I had envisaged when we were elected as JCR Welfare Representatives last spring. Typically, the Welfare Reps would organise a range of events including tea breaks, movie screenings, pizza masterclasses, Zumba, and gingerbread decorating sessions. However, this year we have had to shift to more pandemic-friendly initiatives, such as socially distanced tea breaks, pumpkin-carving competitions in households, online self-care and wellbeing talks, Zoom coffee mornings and walks around the Meadow."

Click here to continue reading Jemma's blog.

Revd Clare Hayns, Christ Church’s Welfare Coordinator and College Chaplain discusses in her blog the importance of taking the time to focus on our mental well-being. Click here to read Clare's blog.

Gabriel Sewell, College Librarian, writes in her blog on how the Library works with the Welfare Team to purchase books to support those seeking to understand and manage health and wellbeing using helpful reading. Click here to read Gabriel's blog


Christ Church's Arts Week

Arts week sculptureOur annual celebration of the arts happened throughout Christ Church during the week of 17th to 21st May. The centerpiece of Arts Week was the Ruskin students’ exhibition, for which they produce new site specific artwork that was installed throughout the College.

This year Ashley Cluer produced a large-scale abstract installation challenging the rigid rectilinear architecture of the Hall staircase. Nearby, Eleanor Thompson's anthropogenic geese sculptures dotted the stairs gesturing towards our close relation with our non-human kin. In the announcement boxes throughout College, Rubia Southcott produced a poster inspired by Yasunari Kawabata's short story “One Arm” that called into question the objectification of the female form and includes the artist's phone number inviting the audience into a discursive arrangement. Dominkia Kolenda's sensitive photographs of the body raised awareness about endometriosis, a disease experienced by ten percent of all people with uteruses. A video installation by Joanna McClurg in Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre focused on the Belfast-based political art group, Gael Force Art.  

Click here to read full article by Jason Waite (GCR Arts Rep).


Longhorn Café Opened at the Meadows

Longhorn CafeChrist Church is delighted to announce the opening of its new ‘Longhorn Café’, a temporary take-away coffee shop for college members and the local community, as social restrictions continue to ease.

Named after the beautiful, rare cattle which live in the Christ Church Meadow, the Longhorn Café is set within the Visitor Centre and can be accessed through the shop. The café offers a wide range of food and beverages, many of which are produced in the Christ Church kitchen, including freshly made baguettes and cakes as well as coffees, teas, hot chocolate, soft drinks and wine. The Café is open every day from 08:30 to 17:00.

Picnic boxOld Members will receive a 10% discount on the production of the University's alumni card.

Staff at the Visitor Centre are also offering a seasonal tour of Christ Church Meadow which provides an enjoyable few hours of peace and quiet away from the bustling city to learn about the Meadow’s history, conservation, and planting schemes.

If you fancy a picnic by the river, you can even get a Ploughman's Lunch picnic box at the Café and enjoy a delicious selection of sweet and savoury items - simply order online and collect from the café on the day of your visit.

Old Members receive 10% discount when ordering picnic boxes online. Enter the discount code "ALUMNI10" at checkout and present your alumni card at collection.




Emily's Wine Blog

Photo Emily Robotham Trends in wine: new labels, new drinkers 

There have been many attempts to broaden wine’s appeal, but for many, wine lists remain opaque catalogues with details that look suspiciously irrelevant. But recently there have been some exciting moves in wine that go some of the way towards giving consumers quality indicators. And wouldn’t it be nice if more wines would just tell you if they were good? I’d have a lot more time on my hands for a start. 

The Old Vines project, headed by Sarah Abbott MW, Leo Austin and Alun Griffiths MW, looks at vineyards of special age. Some wines already label themselves ‘old vines’ or ‘vieilles vignes’ but there are currently few regions that have rules for when and where this label can be applied. As a result, many vineyards of great age are grubbed up year on year to make room for more trendy varieties. The Old Vine Conference in March of this year started with Dr Jamie Goode holding a Chilean wine made from ungrafted vines dating back to the 17th century, available in Chile for the equivalent of £8. It’s so obviously right that these wines should be celebrated that it’s strange to think no one has done it before. 

Meanwhile, in Rioja, centralised authority by the Consejo Regulador has been challenged this May by an attempt from more than 50 winemakers in the Rioja Alavesa to leave the Rioja denomination. The Alavesa is the region of Rioja associated with some its finest and most elegant wines and a lot of these winemakers identify as Basque rather than Spanish. The rebels say they are fed up with labels that show no distinction between their wine and some of the wine that comes from the Rioja Baja, workhorse wines that are seen to devalue the Rioja name. If approved, the EU will create a new denomination of Arabako Mahastiak/Viñedos de Álava to recognise the wines of the Alavesa. 

Emily Robotham
Buttery and Wine Cellar Manager


News from Alumni

Photo of James O'DonnellAndrew Chamblin Memorial Concert 2021

The fifteenth annual Andrew Chamblin Memorial Concert will be given by James O'Donnell FRCO HonRAM at 8 pm in Christ Church Cathedral on Thursday 24th June 2021 and streamed live online this year due to the pandemic (no physical attendance will be possible).

Mr O'Donnell will play an hour-long programme of organ works by Bach, Handel, de Grigny, Gibbons and Byrd. The concert is free for everyone.
There are no tickets required and the weblink for the live-streamed concert can be watched here.

Andrew Chamblin, an old member of Christ Church (1991), died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2006 at the very early age of 36. A brilliant theoretical physicist, Andrew was additionally distinguished as an organist and harpsichordist with a passion for Bach. Given Andrew's own accomplishments as an organist and great appreciation of organ music, friends and relatives of Andrew have joined together to commemorate his memory by forming the Andrew Chamblin Memorial Concert Fund. The intention is to fund an annual organ concert to be given in Christ Church Cathedral.

Click here to learn more about Andrew Chamblin Fund and make a gift.



Dr Amitava Banerjee (1996): The Long Tail of Pandemic

Photo of Dr Amitava BanerjeeAmitava Banerjee (1996-2002) has been making the case for an “infection suppression” or “zero-COVID” strategy since March 2020, when he led work predicting that a population infection rate of 10% in the UK would result in more than 70,000 COVID-19 deaths over the next year, triggering the first lockdown on 23 March. He showed that much of the mortality risk for COVID-19 was related to underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. His model has been used to highlight the “high-risk population” in all countries of the world, the risk in people with cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as informing vaccination prioritisation.

After qualifying from Oxford, he trained as a junior doctor in Oxford, Newcastle, Hull and London. His interest in preventive cardiology and evidence-based medicine led to a Masters in Public Health at Harvard (2004/05), an internship at the World Health Organisation (2005) and DPhil in epidemiology from Oxford (2010). He was clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Birmingham, before moving to University College London in 2015 as associate professor in clinical data science and honorary consultant cardiologist at University College London Hospitals and Barts Health NHS Trusts. He has been working clinically throughout the pandemic, including at the London Nightingale and Royal London Hospitals.

As well as describing the potential “indirect” effects on non-COVID patients, including those with cardiovascular disease, due to health system strain during the pandemic, his team has been investigating longer term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The term “Long covid” was coined on Twitter in May 2020 to describe persistent post-COVID symptoms. With Perspectum, a diagnostic company based in Oxford, Banerjee led the first study to assess function across all organs using MRI. Even in non-hospitalised individuals, 70% of individuals had mild impairment in at least one organ, and 30% had across multiple organs over four months following initial infection. Using national electronic health records, and collaborating with the Office for National Statistics, he conducted the first large-scale study of multi-organ impairment in 48,000 post-hospitalised COVID-19 patients, four months after initial SARS-CoV2 infection. There was a 10% risk of mortality and 30% risk of hospital readmission. Compared with health controls, cardiovascular disease and liver disease were 3 times more common, and kidney disease and diabetes were 2 and 1.5 times more frequent, respectively.

Working with the team leading the first dedicated long COVID clinic in the country, he showed major implications of long COVID for individuals and healthcare resources, with less than half of individuals able to return to full-time work over the next 3-6 months. Banerjee’s research continues to inform policy and practice in relation to long COVID. The only proven way to avoid these direct, indirect and long-term effects is to keep the infection rate down, initially by lockdown and social measures, and now by ensuring that as much of the population as possible is vaccinated.


Drug Discovery with Dr Lars Knutsen (1974)

Lars J.S. Knutsen, MA, PhD, FRSC leads Discovery Pharma Consulting LLC, a R&D Consulting group based both in West Chester, PA, USA and Cambridge, UK, that provides Drug Discovery and I.P. Expert Witness services.  Lars published an article in Drug Discovery Today while he lived in the US from 2006 to 2016, and it made the top 10 downloads in the journal. In this edition of e-Matters, Lars shares with us his thoughts on the Photo of Dr Lars Knutsentopic of Drug Discovery:

Drug Discovery is often seen as something that takes place in large, mysterious white buildings in the Golden Triangle Science Parks, spanning Oxford, Cambridge and London. The buildings appear mysterious because no one without strict security clearance is allowed into them. And rather like the nature of an electron expressed in the notion of “particle wave duality”, which I learned about at Oxford, it is very hard to define, and the general public does not really understand where new medicines emerge from.

New drugs always come from a spark of an idea, and this idea clearly has the nature of an invention. But for an inventive event to occur, there has to be both conception and reduction to practice. So, thinking scientists can have an idea, but it needs to be brought into the real world of utility, i.e. the treatment of disease.

Drugs can emerge from chance observations (e.g. penicillin), being sent for the wrong test by happenchance  (acyclovir, an antiviral), or by being tested in university labs. (AZT, the AIDS drug). The main underlying process is having great ideas; that is what I refer to as “making your own luck”. The processes may appear to be accidental, but there is acute observation behind them.

Ten years down the line, in what can seem like an alignment of planets, a new drug may emerge onto the market, if it passes human testing phases and then regulatory hurdles. This takes enormous investment, and after a company spends a billion pounds on development, projects can fail for obscure reasons. Then there are patent challenges in courts which mean that the innovative new drug can end up with inadequate IP coverage, and becomes a generic medicine.  

I started my career after graduating from Christ Church in 1978 at Allen and Hanburys in Ware, Herts., a company owned by Glaxo, comprising a well-funded Drug Discovery group that was one of the most efficient in the world at providing new medicines. The site yielded a ~40% return on capital, contributing to Glaxo shares being the top performer in the Thatcher decade of 1980 to 1990, rising around 2000%. Glaxo Wellcome became a leading name in the industry.

Now GSK operates what is the largest R&D site in the world alongside the A1 in Stevenage. An impressive building, but one which has a very poor record of new drugs discovered, resulting in a crisis in GSK’s drug pipeline. The company is so big that billion-dollar blockbuster drugs are needed to “Feed the Monster”, yet the R&D teams are not able to provide them.  

My article “Drug discovery management, small is still beautiful: Why a number of companies get it wrong” warns of the dangers of just focusing on money, rather than patients, as well as the arrogant desire to become the biggest Pharma company in the world. It closes with: “The message is plain and clear: ignore quality science, the needs of inventive scientists and the need to build a terrific entrepreneurial environment, as described herein, and pharma companies will continue to stifle research and suffer further degradation of their drug pipelines.

Click here to watch Lars' talk "How Biotech Startups Can Revolutionize an Ailing Drug Industry" at Walnut Street Labs., an incubator in West Chester, PA. (Full-length version can be accessed here.)

To learn more about Lars' research, click here for the slides of a seminar given by Lars at Merck in Darmstadt in 2012.


Photo of Kieron WinnKieron Winn appointed poet in residence at Rydal Mount

From the 19th to 26th June 2021, Kieron Winn (1987) will be first poet in residence at Rydal Mount in the Lake District since it was the home of William Wordsworth.

His first collection of poems, The Mortal Man, was published in August 2015. He has twice won the University of Oxford’s most valuable literary award, the English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize.

Kieron read English at Christ Church, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and TS Eliot.

Kieron commented on his appointment: 'I'm very excited that, thanks to the generosity of the Wordsworth family and the Curators, my wife and I will be staying in Rydal Mount, next to the bedroom that was William and Mary Wordsworth's. It's said that I'm the first poet to stay in the house since his time. Wordsworth and the Lakes mean joy and delight to me, and I couldn't be happier.'

See Kieron's poem 'Rembrandt and Hendrickje' below in the Alumni Poetry section.


Photo of Mae MacDonaldMae MacDonald (2015)

Congratulations to Mae MacDonald (2015), formerly known as Ellie Mae MacDonald, who has been awarded the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship. 

It is an incredibly competitive and prestigious prize that is intended not only to fully fund students, but to train them for global leadership through the King Global Leadership Program.

Click here to read more about Mae's background and research interest on the KHS website.

Mae was the First Years’ Representative (on the JCR committee) in the year 2016-2017. She won the E. T. Warner Prize in PPE and was an Academic Scholar and a Moritz-Heyman Scholar (now Crankstart) for students from low-income/first-generation backgrounds. Last year, she worked at Oxford Sciences Innovation, the company with £600m to fund science start-ups that are borne from university research. Whilst working there, she was part of the Women in Entrepreneurship committee, a group of stakeholders across the university working on improving female representation in business.


Other News

All Innovate Competition PhotoThe Oxford Foundry's All Innovate Competition

Another term, another chance to win £20,000 in grant funding…
The Oxford Foundry is excited to launch the Trinity Term All Innovate competition, which sees teams of students pitching their entrepreneurial ideas in an exciting, tense competition.
Christ Church is a partnering college, meaning that undergraduates, postgraduates and DPhils from any department are invited to apply with an entrepreneurial idea or venture for a chance to win from the remaining £20,000 prize funding pot, as well as follow-on support to turn their idea into reality, or build up their venture.
The competition is accompanied by Idea Exploration, Design Thinking and Creativity workshops with experienced mentors to help students build new skills and enhance their careers. For more information, please see the short video created by Oxford Foundry to showcase last year’s contestants:  Oxford Foundry All-Innovate Competition - YouTube
Good luck to all our student teams entering this year’s competition!


Alumni Poetry

Rembrandt and Hendrickje

Paintings in the National Gallery

Rembrandt sees himself, even when young,
Cavalier golden hairs in his moustache,
With a slight petulance that just might weep
And wince at the disguises age puts on,
The furs and hair, the skin like cracking paint.
But close by is a picture of Hendrickje
Who looks out with unbounded tenderness
At Rembrandt as he paints her. In this third,
That stream might be the first one in the world,
So curiously is she stepping through
Its pliant softness, rippling gown held high
Here in his studio. When she looks up
Is his face glowing too now they’re alone?
The clattering maid has left, and glassy grapes
Are piled in cupboards next to ragged bread,
As through flawed windows, wheels tilt by on cobbles
By flies and scattered straw, far from this room.

                                                                  Kieron Winn (1987)
                                                                  first published in The Spectator


Alumni Photography

We encourage all alumni and friends to submit photographs to us inspired by the poems featured on our Alumni Poetry Page. Poems and photographs will be collected together in the coming months and will eventually form an online exhibition celebrating alumni creative work. 

To submit your photograph please: