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Orielensis Jim Mellon Gifts £1 Million to Aid Research into Improving Future Health Resilience

The gift is the largest of its kind dedicated to Longevity Science to a UK university, making Oriel and Oxford a focal point for efforts to improve future health resilience by boosting the immunity and healthspan of ageing populations. More specifically, the gift will support the work of Professor Lynne Cox, George Moody Fellow in Biochemistry at Oriel, and a principal investigator in the Department of Biochemistry. Her lab studies the molecular basis of human ageing, with the aim of reducing the morbidity and frailty associated with old age through better health resilience.

The gift will also allow the creation, in perpetuity, of a DPhil scholarship in Ageing and Cell Senescence, to be based at Oriel. It is intended that the first recipient of the DPhil scholarship will join the College for the 2020-21 academic year.

Jim’s gift will help to foster a closer network of leaders in the longevity field, with Oriel at its centre. It will also promote and support interdisciplinary research into ageing through collaboration between the University’s Oxford Ageing Network (OxAgeN), co-led by Professor Cox, and the Ageing Research Collaborative Hub (ARCH) which includes researchers from Oxford’s numerous academic divisions (including humanities, social sciences, medical sciences, mathematical, physical, engineering and life sciences).

Provost Neil Mendoza says of the gift: “We are very grateful to Jim for his generosity and continued support for the  College and the University. This gift will allow us to establish Oriel as a focal point for what we believe is an essential area of research with a potential for high impact and positive returns for science and the economy. Private philanthropy remains critical to our ability to continue to advance science in this nascent area and contribute to society. Jim has shown continued support for Oriel over many years, funding the creation of our off-site accommodation, James Mellon Hall, in 2000. He is also giving his time to act as the Chair of our Campaign Board, which will launch its new fundraising programme this year in anticipation of the College’s 700th anniversary in 2026.”

Explaining why he has chosen to support Oriel and Oxford’s research in this area, Jim said: “There has never been a more important time to address the frailty of human health. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the huge economic and social costs connected to the lack of immune resilience in our increasingly ageing population and the need for greater scientific research into this area.

Boosting immunoresilience among the most vulnerable in society and advancing healthspan are critical to helping more people reach their potential as well as, more urgently, improving our collective resilience in the face of future pandemics. Oxford’s leadership in the field of research and understanding of the ageing process makes it a natural home to advance longevity science and support the growth of the longevity industry, and I am proud to support this work.”

The impact of Jim’s investment in this important area of research is explained by Professor Lynne Cox: “With the incidence of chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia rising rapidly with age, and older people most at risk of both becoming infected with, and suffering adverse outcomes from infectious disease,  the ability to support better health through the lifecourse via early intervention presents a cost-effective approach to improving national health and resilience. This gift will significantly bolster our ability to study the process of cell ageing and advance interventions that can improve health and immune resilience.”

Jim supports a variety of different business ventures, but his most recent include co-founding  Juvenescence Limited, a company investing in the development of therapies for ageing and the diseases of ageing, as well as Agronomics Limited, an investment company that is focused on opportunities within the nascent industry of environmentally friendly and cruelty free modern foods. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Oriel.