12th Oct 2020
It’s not often that new donors to the Community Foundation make headline news around the UK and further afield. But that’s exactly what happened when Nicola Curtin, Professor of Experimental Cancer Therapeutics at Newcastle University, set up her fund
Nicola was part of the team involved in the creation of Rubraca®, a new cancer drug that has been approved for use on the NHS to treat Ovarian cancer. As part of the team, Professor Curtin received a percentage of the profits when the research was sold. This sudden influx of funds gave Nicola pause for reflection.
‘I feel very privileged to have such a fulfilling career,’ Nicola says. ‘By working with a team of scientists at Newcastle University to bring Rubraca® to market, we’ve created a cancer treatment that has the potential to change thousands of women’s lives. This journey made me reflect on my own life, and it seemed wrong for me to benefit financially. I’m proud that this research will change lives, but I recognise that luck played a significant part in our success. I am also lucky to have everything that I need in life – a good job, a loving family, a nice house – but, in society there are many who are not so lucky to have this. I know first-hand that people are capable of amazing things, but society sometimes doesn’t always allow people to reach their full potential. So, I decided I wanted to leave a lasting legacy that will change lives for the better.’
The Community Foundation’s discussions with Nicola highlighted her passion to support individuals to develop their skills, talents and confidence in order to overcome barriers to employment or education. Nicola established the Curtin PARP (Passionate About Realising your Potential) Fund, naming it after herself and her ground-breaking research into PARP inhibitors which led to the creation of the drug and her financial windfall. When the fund was set up, her selfless act of giving struck a chord with many and became a story in national newspapers including The Times, The Sun, The Independent, Metro and saw Nicola interviewed on BBC Radio. Comment sections on these sites, sometimes known for their negativity, were universally supportive of Nicola with calls for formal recognition for her generosity.
Nicola is particularly keen to see the fund support carers, black and minority ethnic people, disabled people, homeless people and people who are experiencing disadvantage that prevents them from realising their potential. While the fund is still in its early days a number of grants have already been made including to the Carers Trust Tyne & Wear to support 40 young carers attend a first aid course and to support Sonya, 17-year-old who looks after both her parents with help from her siblings. She needed support to buy a laptop to help with her college and apprenticeship work from home. Sonya says “Having this laptop has allowed me to work from home. If I hadn’t had it, I would have been furloughed until we would be clear to go back to work. Using this laptop has allowed me to keep to GDPR standards as I use my work email and programmes on a daily basis and need to keep it confidential and having my own laptop allows me to do so.” It’s not all about work though as Sonya continues. “Having this device also allows me to keep myself entertained and take a break from work which has also improved my overall mental health.”