A billionaire philanthropist couple have donated $7.5m to Glasgow University’s bid to become a world-leading hub for precision medicine.
Husband and wife John and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, whose biopharma firm Biocon is India’s largest, gifted $5m to a new research hub currently under construction on the Western Infirmary site as part of the University’s £1bn campus development.
It will see space in Level 2 – the floor dedicated to public engagement – named Shaw Plaza. A further donation of $2.5m will create a new Professorial Chair to be named the Mazumdar-Shaw Chair of Precision Oncology. Combined, the sums are the largest-ever philanthropic donation to the university.
Mr Shaw’s career with the Paisley-based textile firm Coats included management and financial positions across the world and led to him meeting his future wife Kiran in Bangalore. When they married in 1998, her firm Biocon was a pioneering biotech venture, but Mr Shaw took early retirement from Coats and helped his wife transform the company from a small company into a biotech giant.
Mr Shaw said: “As a proud alumnus of the University of Glasgow, I have the good fortune of making a gift at a time when the University is embarking on a major expansion. Both Kiran and I have the proud privilege of being awarded honorary doctorates.
“The success of our company, Biocon, has allowed us to be philanthropic. Research at Glasgow resonates very closely with Biocon’s principal interests in diabetes and cancer. Our gift therefore seeks to support research and precision oncology. The University of Glasgow has the potential to advance science to new levels and become a globally-recognised research hub.”
The University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, said: “We are deeply grateful to John and Kiran for this act of extraordinary generosity. The Research Hub, currently under construction, will create a unique environment which will break down organisational silos to allow the collaboration across disciplines on which world changing research breakthroughs now depend. It will allow us to impact on many of the most pressing issues of our time including new treatments for chronic and infectious diseases and reducing poverty in the Global South, John and Kiran have long been supporters of the University, also helping develop the University’s strong scientific relationship with Biocon which includes joint PhDs at the University. I am delighted that we are able to do such important work together.”
Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, welcomed the support for a Chair of Precision Oncology. She said: “Scotland is a world-leader in Precision Medicine and this support for Precision Oncology – an important branch of Precision Medicine – comes at a time when we are making significant progress. I am extremely grateful for the Shaws’ recognition of the importance of our work here at the University of Glasgow and for their financial support.”
Glasgow-born John Shaw completed his MA in History/Modern History with Politics in 1970. He had attended the High School of Glasgow where he was a contemporary of a former Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Muir Russell. His, brother, sister-in-law and nephew are all Glasgow graduates, as was his late mother.
Mr Shaw said: “I was the Chairman of the Adam Smith Society in my final year, 1970, and received a commission from the Officer Training Corps. I was awarded the Davidson Medal for Outstanding Cadet which I still deeply cherish. My time at the OTC was a very formative experience which taught me leadership and gave me the confidence to meet any challenge throughout my subsequent business career at Coats. It is this that binds me to my Alma Mater.”
Asked what their message to young entrepreneurs, scientists and businessmen and women was, Mr Shaw said: “Building a business from scratch into a large enterprise takes courage, determination and endurance. Most importantly, it is a journey of risk management. Our message to young entrepreneurs and businessmen and women would be to pursue opportunities with a sense of purpose and a spirit of challenge. There are no guarantees or shortcuts to success.”