The biennial Oon Award and Lecture honours distinguished researchers in preventative medicine, and the Oon Khye Beng Ch'hia Tsio Studentships support undergraduates and graduates undertaking biomedical research.
The Ch'hia Tsio Project was established in February 1976 following a donation from Mr Oon Khye Beng to Downing College, his alma mater. Its purpose was to support research on preventive medicine, and the first grants were awarded that year when the then Master, Professor John Butterfield (later Lord Butterfield) chaired the advisory panel.
Ch'hia Tsio translates as "bare rock", which describes the sparse and rocky terrain on an area near Xiamen in Fukien Province where the Oon ancestral home was situated. The conditions in early 20th century China encouraged the wave of migration to South East Asia and the Oon family found their way to Penang, Malaya
The Trust Fund was set up in recognition of Oon Khye Beng's matriculation as a Queen's Scholar in 1927. This scholarship was awarded annually to the top 'O' level student from the Straits Settlement in Malaya. Oon Khye Beng graduated in 1930 with a degree in Mechanical Sciences. He was the first local electrical engineer in Malaya and he involved himself in the tin mining industry near Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. As he was both Chinese and Cambridge educated, he was able to relate to the owners of the mines and communicate with them in their dialects whilst also being accepted by the British administrators who regulated the mining processes.
His interest in human health came about as a result of his experiences during the war years, 1941-46, when he was alone in Singapore, separated from his family who had been shipped to India. Oon Khye Beng encouraged his children to go into medicine: Chong-Teik (MB, BChir '63), Chong Jin (MB, BChir '64 and MD '75) and Chong Hau (MB, BChir '73). He hoped that the Trust Fund would help Downing to expand the horizons of a new generation of medical researchers in the area of human health.
The early projects in the 70s and 80s helped to fund research in the Departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Biochemistry, Psychology, and the Clinical School at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in the University of Cambridge. By 2005-06 the Oon Khye Beng Ch'hia Tsio Studentships had grown to support eight studentships and five small grants for research.
The project has provided opportunities for several generations of undergraduates and graduates to undertake biomedical research (often in the long vacation), to participate in scientific conferences, undertake internships in international health agencies and to travel to less privileged communities for projects in preventive medicine.
In 1992 the biennial Oon International Award and Lecture in Preventive Medicine was established following discussions with the then Master, Professor Barry Everitt FRS, and Sir Keith Peters (Regius Professor of Physic) to encourage internationally renowned biomedical researchers to come to Cambridge to share their medical knowledge with students and colleagues. Distinguished past lecturers include Professor David Lomas, Cambridge (1996), Professor Alain Townsend, Oxford (1998), Dr Margaret Liu, Chiron Corporation, USA (2000), Professor Andrew Wilkie, Oxford (2002), Dr Peter St George-Hyslop, Toronto (2004), Dr Jeremy Farrar, the Oxford Clinical Research Unit at the Vietnam Hospital for Tropical Disease (2006), Dr Douglas A Melton, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University (2009) and Dr Charles L Sawyers of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York (2011).
These occasions allow students, Fellows, and the University's biomedical research community both to hear about cutting edge biomedical research and to meet with a world renowned medical researcher in an informal setting, thereby greatly encouraging the exchange of information and ideas.
The brothers Chong Hau and Chong Jin continue actively to support the project and firmly believe that the Oon Khye Beng and Ch'hia Tsio Trust Fund should remind us that, as we have benefited from the generosity of those who came before us, we should also contribute to the present and help to guide research that will contribute to a better and healthier future.
Oon Prize/Award Winners and their Lectures
1996: Dr David Lomas
Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge Clinical School
Molecular Mousetraps and Liver Disease
1998: Professor Alain Townsend
Professor of Molecular Immunology, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford University
The Immunology of Virus Infections – inside out!
2000: Dr Margaret A Liu
Vice President, Vaccines Research and Gene Therapy, Chiron Corporation
Gene Vaccines: Second-Generation DNA Vaccines and DC-Tropic Alphavirus Replicons
2002: Professor Andrew Wilkie
Professor of Genetics and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow University of Oxford
Malformations of the skull and limbs; a story of gains and losses.
2004: Dr Peter St George-Hyslop
Senior Scientist, Division of Genomic Medicine, Toronto Western Research Institute
Genetics and Biology of Alzheimer's Disease: clues for therapies.
2006: Professor Jeremy Farrar
Director, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, The Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Vietnam
Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Implications for International Health.
2009: Dr Douglas A Melton
Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University
How to make pancreatic insulin-producing cells.
2011: Dr Charles L Sawyers
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Overcoming cancer drug resistance
2014: Dr Daniel J Drucker
Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
L cell pharmacology advances the treatment of diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders.
2015: Professor Stefan Hell
Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and 2014 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry
Fluorescent nanoscopy: principles and recent advancements.
2018: Professor Mihaela van der Schaar
John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Medicine
Medicine 2.0: Transforming Clinical Practice and Discovery through Machine Learning and Electronic Health Engines
2020: Dr Richard Henderson
Group leader at the MRC's Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Structure-based Drug Design Using Electron Cryomicroscopy