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Faculty of Economics

The Faculty of Economics and the University of Cambridge are saddened to announce that Professor Chris Abell, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, one of the Managers of the Keynes Fund, Professor of Biological Chemistry and Todd-Hamied Fellow of Christ’s College, has died suddenly at the age of 62.


Professor Chris Abell FRS, FMedSci (1957 – 2020)

A biological chemist, he was a pioneer in the field of fragment-based drug discovery, a successful entrepreneur, a founding director of Cambridge Enterprise, and the University’s first Director of Postdoctoral Affairs.

He was an undergraduate and postgraduate student at St John’s College, Cambridge, before conducting postdoctoral research at Brown University, USA. He was named a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2012 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2016.

Professor Leonardo Felli, Chair of the Faculty of Economics said, “Chris provided much support in recent years to the Faculty, in particular to its research strategy and profile, and we are deeply saddened by his passing.”

The Keynes Fund provides resources to the Cambridge research community for high-quality projects. As one of the managers of the Keynes Fund Professor Chris Abell encouraged research based on empirical observation of the behaviour of market participants, drawing on relevant work in the other social sciences such as biology and history.

Keynes Fund Director Toke Aidt added “Professor Chris Abell has, over many years, made an invaluable contribution to the work of the Keynes Fund and helped to promote applied, policy-relevant research in economics. His death is sad news and a huge loss to the Faculty. Our thoughts and our deepest sympathies are with his wife and son.”

He had a highly interdisciplinary approach to his research. In the Department of Chemistry a major focus was to understand the mechanisms of key enzymes and develop approaches to their inhibition, an approach that could lead to new treatments for diseases such as tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and cancer.

The advances he made in fragment-based drug discovery led him to co-found Astex, a world-leading company in this area, in 1999. Fragment-based approaches are now adopted throughout the pharmaceutical industry and in many academic laboratories.

He also made major contributions to the development of microfluidic microdroplets as a platform for experimental science, with applications in cell biology, chemistry and materials science. This interest resulted in the co-founding of Sphere Fluidics (2010) and Aqdot (2013).

A digital condolences book has been set up at: