Record donation gives massive boost to Leicester’s world-leading heart research
It’s the single largest philanthropic donation ever received by the University of Leicester: the John and Lucille van Geest Foundation is giving £7 million to support our world-leading research into heart disease. This unprecedented gift recognises Leicester’s position at the forefront of cardiovascular science and will be a massive boost for our world-class heart research team.
The donation comprises two elements:
£2.5 million will create a unique analytical Biomarker Facility, situated next to our soon-to-be-completed Cardiovascular Research Centre at Glenfield Hospital. The new Facility will include a sample preparation area, a suite of three state-of-the-art mass spectrometers and powerful computing capacity for managing and analysing the resultant data.
By identifying new biomarkers for cardiovascular diseases, researchers and clinicians will be better able to match treatments to individual patients to greatly aid prevention and treatment not only in the UK but across the world.
The remaining £4.5 million will be used to establish the van Geest Foundation Heart and Cardiovascular Diseases Research Fund here at the University. Leading researchers in our Department of Cardiovascular Science, or working in related areas in other departments, will be able to apply to this fund to support cutting-edge projects.
van Geest: bulbs, bananas and biomedicine
Dutch-born John van Geest established his flower-growing business Geest Horticultural Products in Spalding, Lincolnshire in 1935, expanding after the war into the importation of fresh produce. In the 1950s Geest started developing the banana industry in the Windward Islands and by the 1960s half of all bananas sold in the UK were Geest. The company even set up a cruise line as spin-off from the banana trade.
In 1972 Geest Holdings plc was created to produce packaged salads for supermarkets and this gradually became the main area of business, incorporating a wide variety of brands as the company expanded. The John van Geest Charitable Fund was established in 1976 and in 1990 was incorporated into the John and Lucille van Geest Foundation, a major benefactor in the field of medical research.
The Foundation is now being wound up, distributing its remaining funds to selected world-leading medical research organisations. We are of course delighted that the trustees have decided to support the University’s progressive fundraising bid and recognised Leicester’s pre-eminence in the field of cardiovascular research by making this milestone donation.
Our Director of Development Steve O'Connor has written a piece for the Guardian's Higher Education Network, explaining how this generous gift reflects the University's investment in our Development Team.