Vice-Chancellor celebrates links with Asia

Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, has just returned from a trip to Asia in which he visited alumni, met friends and collaborators of the University, and focussed in particular on Oxford’s medical science links with the region.

Professor Hamilton visited Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo between 12 and 19 May. A packed schedule ranged from a reading to schoolchildren, part of Oxford University Press’s ‘Oxford Path’ programme, which brings English language and early education to young children in Hong Kong; to a visit to Nissan headquarters to see the latest developments in electric vehicles, including the ‘Leaf’ cars that Nissan will shortly make available for Oxford engineers to transform into driverless cars.

A key part of the trip was a showcase of medical science collaboration between Oxford and China in Beijing, which followed the formal launch of the Oxford University (Beijing) Science & Technology Company Ltd office, which supports Oxford's medical partnerships in China.

Oxford’s medical research collaborations with China date back 30 years: in the early 1980s, Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) started collaborating with medical scientists at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the China Centre for Disease Control, beginning with a landmark study across 69 rural Chinese counties and growing to include large-scale randomised trials that have resulted in changes to clinical practice worldwide for heart attacks and strokes.

Oxford’s collaborations with China now include a study of common diseases in half a million Chinese people (the China Kadoorie Biobank); the largest ever study in the world of the genetics of depression; and various projects on the world’s most major diseases, both chronic and infectious. Oxford scientists also do a lot of research training in China. ‘It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the medical research collaborations between Oxford and China are changing global health,’ says Professor Hamilton.

At an event for collaborators, alumni and other interested parties held in Beijing by the Nuffield Department of Medicine, which is responsible for most of Oxford’s medical research in China, leading Oxford scientists working in China discussed their projects, as well as the potential for further partnerships.

On the trip Professor Hamilton and Professor Peter Ratcliffe, head of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, also met the Chinese Minister of Health, Dr Zhu Chen, to discuss Oxford’s medical research collaborations in China.

The medical theme was felt throughout the trip. In Hong Kong, world-leading sleep specialist Professor Russell Foster of Oxford University gave a keynote lecture, ‘Pillow Talk: The Biology of Sleep’, and also addressed gifted young people with a talk on the body clock. And in Tokyo, the academic discussion of ethics, in particular ethics in science and medicine, came to the fore. Professor Tony Hope, Professor of Medical Ethics and the founder of the Ethox Centre at Oxford, gave a lecture on ‘Medicine's conscience: the role of ethics in the practice of medicine’; while the Uehiro Carnegie Oxford Conference 2012 tackled ‘Life: Its Nature, Value and Meaning’.