Belfast Telegraph

Meet the global cancer expert from Derry who's landed £200,000-a-year post as head of Queen's University

BY VICTORIA O'HARA

It is among one of the highest paid jobs in Northern Ireland with a six-figure salary greater than the Prime Minister's, along with many other perks, and is seen as the top academic post in Northern Ireland.

Now a homegrown global cancer research expert has been appointed to lead one of Northern Ireland's most prestigious organisations, Queen's University Belfast.

Professor Patrick Johnston (55), Dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's, will take up the post as the new Vice-Chancellor in 2014.

His appointment was approved yesterday at an additional meeting of Senate, Queen's governing body.

Prof Johnston, who succeeds Professor Sir Peter Gregson, becomes the 12th Vice-Chancellor in the university's 168-year history.

Prof Gregson left his £218,000-a-year position in Belfast in July. His new role as Principal of Cranfield University in Bedfordshire has a salary of £275,000 a year – almost twice of that of Prime Minister David Cameron's.

His successor's wage has yet to be determined by the university. But it is understood it will be within a similar pay band.

Speaking about his appointment, Prof Johnston, who was educated in Londonderrry, described it as "an honour".

"This is a proud day for both me and my family and I thank Queen's University for choosing me to be its next President and Vice-Chancellor," he said.

"I very much look forward to leading this distinguished institution and working alongside its exceptional staff and students.

"It is an honour and privilege to be given this opportunity to further develop and enhance the reputation and standing of Queen's.

"Queen's' objective is to become an international leader in both education and research.

"I will work tirelessly to achieve this objective, which will bring benefits not only to the university but to the local economy and to everyone who lives in Northern Ireland."

Queen's Pro-Chancellor Sir David Fell, who chaired the appointment panel, said: "I am delighted to announce the appointment of Prof Patrick Johnston as our new President and Vice-Chancellor."

Professor Johnston, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, has led a number of transformational projects.

"As one of the world's foremost experts in cancer research, he has shown extraordinary leadership in making Queen's and Northern Ireland a truly innovative world-leading centre for medical research," he said.

"He will be an inspirational leader for the whole university and exciting times lie ahead. I wish him every success."

BACKGROUND

Professor Sir Peter Gregson stepped down as Queen's Vice-Chancellor on July 31, 2013 to take up the position of chief executive and Vice-Chancellor at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, England. Professor Johnston is the 12th Vice-Chancellor in the university's 168-year history.

First successful internal candidate since 1976

Professor Patrick Johnson is a world renowned cancer specialist.

Born in Londonderry he is the first internal academic to be appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast since Sir Peter Froggatt in 1976.

The past pupil of St Columb's College received his degree in Medicine with distinction from University College Dublin in 1982. In 1987 he obtained a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), USA, for further clinical training in Medical Oncology.

He was promoted to senior investigator status at NCI in 1991 and in 1996 he was appointed Professor of Oncology at Queen's and became the director of its CCRCB.

The married father of four led the development of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology known as CCRCB.

The centre has forged ahead as a global leader with its first-class facilities and was designated as a Cancer Research UK Centre in 2009. He is currently Dean of Queen's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.

Here he led the development of a new international Medical School and a world-leading Institute of Health Sciences.

In the last 20 years his research has focused on the understanding of mechanisms of cancer resistance to therapeutic agents. He is also a founder of Almac Diagnostics.

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