Four Jewish brothers with a passion for science have said their family’s latest seven-figure donation to London researchers at the cutting edge of medicine is “a fitting tribute” to their father, Sir Naim Dangoor.
The Dangoor family, including brother David and Michael, gave £1.6 million to London’s University College Hospital (UCLH) this week, to help fund Europe’s first dedicated cellular immunotherapy research and treatment centre.
Cellular immunotherapy is an innovative new treatment approach that harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Depending on the cancer, it can be used if more traditional treatments such as chemotherapy do not succeed.
The family’s donation for a new eight-bed unit at the hospital was made through the Exilarch Foundation, and the centre is due to open next year.
It will be named after David’s Iraqi-born father, Sir Naim Dangoor, an entrepreneur who revived the ancient title of Exilarch, the name given to a Jewish leader in Babylonia until the 13th century.
The £1.6 million gift to UCLH follows a £5 million family donation to David’s alma mater Imperial College London in October last year. Both donations will go towards medical research and innovation.
The family has a strong record of contributing in the field of medical interdisciplinary research, seeking solutions for diseases like cancer, and for supporting the creation of space for education and discovery.
Sir Naim’s own passion for funding medical research began in the 1980s and hit national headlines in 2014 with a record sum given to the Royal Society for Medicine. He also gave generously to the Francis Crick Institute at St Pancras, which focuses on biomedical research.
UCLH is already a centre of excellence in immunotherapy and said this week that the new unit meant that it would have the scientific firepower to “potentially pioneer a radical change in how cancer is treated”.
Our immune systems are powerful in-built natural defences that recognise and remove harmful cells from our bodies, but they can find it difficult getting rid of cancer cells because cancers can subvert and undermine these systems.
Immunotherapy trials are looking for ways to teach the immune system how to recognise and kill these cancer cells more efficiently, providing a more effective way of treating cancer.
“Cellular immunotherapy involves taking live cells from the body, genetically engineering them to kill cancer cells, then re-infusing them,” said Professor Karl Peggs, who will be the centre’s first director.
While research into blood cancers has shown positive results, more work is needed, and the Dangoors’ money will fund research into treatment for other types of cancer such as skin, ovarian, liver and lung cancers.
“It will mean greater cancer survival rates,” said Peggs. “It could be a game changer for treating cancer.”
Michael Dangoor, who worked closely with UCLH, said: “My brothers and I felt with this investment UCLH could fast track research into cellular immunotherapies and by establishing this centre in our late father’s honour, it is close to our hearts.”
David added: “We hope the answers the research discovers will improve treatment and outcomes for patients with cancer in the years to come and this will be a fitting tribute to our father’s memory.”