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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Dr Yusuf Hamied and Stephen J. Toope shaking hands in front of the brass plaque

Dr Yusuf Hamied and University of Cambridge Vice-Chacellor Stephen J. Toope at the renaming ceremony

A special ceremony was held on the 7th of July to celebrate the naming of the Department, and to thank Dr Yusuf Hamied and his wife Farida for their generous support.

A small gathering of Dr Hamied’s closest friends and colleagues met in the Department’s Todd-Hamied room, whose refurbishment in 2004 is one of the many projects Dr Hamied has supported since he was a student here in the 1950s.

A mark of respect

Head of Department Dr James Keeler welcomed the guests, saying that the Department has benefitted enormously from the Hamieds’ generosity. He noted that the Yusuf Hamied fund makes it possible for the Department to attract the best and brightest students, early career academics and professors, and to support their research. James said that the Department is not only grateful to the Hamieds and their foundation for their continuous interest and support over the years, but that it is honoured to be named the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, because of Dr Hamied’s outstanding reputation as a businessman and philanthropist, and as a mark of respect for all he has achieved.

From student to supporter

Professor Jeremy Sanders then spoke movingly about Dr Hamied’s long-term history with the Department, first as a student and later as a supporter. As Head of Department from 2000 to 2006, Professor Sanders developed a close working relationship with Dr Hamied, but over the years this has turned into friendship with both Yusuf and Farida. Professor Sanders spoke about Dr Hamied’s deep connection with Chemistry and his sustained support, beginning with the Todd-Hamied room, which Jeremy described as the emotional heart of the department, where research groups have their meetings and official parties take place. Yusuf’s later support includes the refurbishment of the Todd-Hamied Laboratory in 2011 for Professor Dame Clare Grey’s research group, the renovation of the Yusuf Hamied Laboratory for Chemical Synthesis & Catalysis in 2015, and the 2018 establishment of the Yusuf Hamied 1702 Chair in Chemistry, now held by Matthew Gaunt.

The plaque (above) will be mounted on the right-hand side of the main entrance.

The group then moved to the steps at the west end of the Lensfield Road building, where the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge Professor Stephen J. Toope thanked the Hamieds for their generosity at this highest level. He emphasised the importance of their support and that of other philanthropists to the University, and noted that their generosity will have a lasting impact on the outstanding research that continues to be accomplished here.

Formative experience

In a poignant talk, Dr Hamied then reminisced about his love for the University, Christ’s College and of course the Chemistry Department, now named in his honour. He thanked his father for inspiring him, and Lord Todd for giving him the opportunity to come to Cambridge, first as an undergraduate reading Natural Sciences at Christ’s College, and then as a PhD student in Chemistry under Lord Todd. This was a formative experience in many ways and helped set him off on his successful career as Chair and CEO of Cipla, the Indian pharmaceuticals company founded by his father, which is perhaps best known for helping combat AIDS in the 1980s by providing generic drugs to African countries for a dollar a day.

Dr Hamied also thanked his many friends who were able to attend the event, including Professors Bill Steen and Ian Fleming, who were his contemporaries at Cambridge. Dr Hamied and Professor Toope then jointly unveiled a brass plaque which commemorates the naming of the department in Dr Hamied’s honour.

Stimulating discussion

After a celebratory lunch hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, a panel discussion on discovery and commercialisation of new therapies stimulated a great exchange of ideas. Speakers at the panel included Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, who co-founded Solexa with Professor Sir David Klenerman, based on the super-fast DNA sequencing approach they invented, and more recently DNA sequencing tools and technology company Epigenetix; Professor Michele Vendruscolo, a co-Director of the Centre for Misfolding Diseases and co-founder of Wren Therapeutics, which is building a broad drug discovery platform for addressing the causes of neurodegenerative diseases; and James Harrison, who founded Cycle Pharmaceuticals, which improves existing drugs such that quality-of-life issues are resolved for patients, and which supports the Duer group’s research in these areas.

When the refurbishment of the foyer is complete, the plaque commemorating the event will be placed on the right-hand side of the main entrance, facing the inscription which commemorates the opening of the building by Princess Margaret in 1958. It will serve as a reminder of the impact of the Hamieds’ generosity, and a tribute to the Hamied family.

Below from left: Emeritus Professor Jeremy Sanders, Dr James Keeler and Dr Yusuf Hamied.

Below: Dr Yusuf Hamied reminisces about his days as a student and his long connection with the University, Christ's College and Chemistry.