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ICR announces new Chair of Board of Trustees

Head and shoulders shot of Professor Julia Buckingham

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, an acclaimed medical researcher with exceptional leadership experience in academic institutions and across the sector, will become Chair of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, in August.

Professor Buckingham is one of the highest-profile figures in the UK higher education sector, with current positions as President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London.

Her appointment as Chair of the Board of Trustees will enable the ICR to build on its status as a world-leading cancer research institute by strengthening its position within the UK’s academic research and higher education sectors.

Professor Buckingham will take over as Chair on 1 August from businessman and entrepreneur Luke Johnson, who runs private equity firm Risk Capital Partners. Luke Johnson has led the ICR’s board for two successful four-year terms.

Passionate advocate for research and workplace culture

Professor Buckingham has devoted her career to leadership at the interface between scientific research and education. She is passionate about creating the best possible workplace culture at research institutions – ensuring the environment for staff and students is stimulating, inspiring, inclusive and supportive.

She has held positions including as Chair of the Concordat Strategy Group, which aims to enhance the research environment and open up opportunities for professional development, and Chair of the Athena SWAN Review Steering Group, which oversees moves towards greater gender equality in research. 

Professor Buckingham has published widely in her field of pharmacology and received numerous awards and honours for her work, including a CBE in 2018 for services to biology and education, and election as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2019.

A sector leader

She will complete her two-year term as President of Universities UK on 31 July 2021 and is currently in the process of handing over leadership at Brunel, with her departure date yet to be confirmed.

In April, the ICR announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Professor Kristian Helin, who will be joining the ICR on 1 September 2021 from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US. He succeeds Professor Paul Workman who has led the ICR with distinction since 2014.

Professor Buckingham will support the ICR’s new CEO in making the transition to the UK research environment, following his previous leadership roles in Denmark, Italy and the US. Her extensive experience as a sector leader will be invaluable in helping to ensure robust governance and leadership at the top of the ICR – as well as in enabling the organisation to navigate the wider political and funding landscape.

Contributing to the ICR's mission

Charlie Geffen, Deputy Chair of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who led the recruitment of the new Chair, said: “We are all delighted that Julia has agreed to become Chair at the ICR. Not only is she a highly effective senior academic leader but she is also a passionate advocate for research and workplace culture. She will provide invaluable support to the incoming Chief Executive and be an influential advocate for our institution. 

“I would also like to thank Luke Johnson who has successfully led the ICR over the past eight years. He has fostered an entrepreneurial spirit which is reflected in the record levels of income that have been ploughed back into life-saving research during his tenure. The ICR has learned a great deal from him and as a result is in a stronger position to face the challenges ahead.”

Professor Julia Buckingham, Incoming Chair of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “It’s an honour to take on this important role at such a distinguished scientific institution, which has contributed so much to driving forward cancer research and benefiting patients in the UK and around the world. 

“I am excited by the opportunity to contribute to the ICR’s mission to make the discoveries that defeat cancer, and I look forward to working closely with the incoming Chief Executive and his leadership team. I hope I can help the ICR navigate the wider academic landscape, and also intend to bring my passions to bear in ensuring the workplace culture does everything it can to support staff and students to thrive in their roles.” 

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