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Remembering Professor David Grimwade

David Grimwade, Professor of Molecular Haematology at King’s College London and honorary consultant haematologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT), sadly passed away on 17 October 2016. He was 53 and at the peak of his wonderful career as a basic scientist, translational clinical scientist, leader of national and European trials, inspiring mentor and teacher and about as determined and hard-working a colleague and collaborator as I have ever known. 

I followed his career and successes particularly closely when he was a PhD student of mine. In 1997 we moved to then United Medical and Dental School of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital together and have had equally chaotic and unkempt offices side-by-side ever since.

David trained as a haematologist and wrote his PhD on Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. He was gripped by the then recently discovered molecular events occurring in this leukaemia and the speed with which the understanding and treatment of the disease was unfolding.

His promotion to a Personal Chair, successful acquisition of grants and supervisor of many students and postdocs followed quickly, as well as an amazing determination and ability to bring together his clinical colleagues across the country and to lead trials of molecular monitoring and chemotherapy-free treatment approaches, which revolutionised the way this disease is managed and saved many lives. He was in constant contact with clinicians throughout the UK and beyond to guide them with difficult or unusual cases, and personally followed the treatment of thousands of patients.

More recently his work encompassed molecular analysis of acute myeloid leukaemia and the application of molecular techniques to improve treatment in this very challenging and heterogeneous disease—his recent paper in New England Journal of Medicine illustrates this.

The emails and letters which have been written about him are heart-warming and heart-breaking including ones from patients who could not believe he wouldn’t be there to look at their results. Several have said that they believe him to be known by all hematologist-oncologist, anywhere, where myeloid leukemia’s were being studied and treated.

David was the most remarkable of people. He had widespread interests in food, wine, travel and Reading FC. His sense of humour, warmth, friendship and his keen intelligence are mentioned in almost every comment and email about him. The last year of his life was utterly remarkable. He continued to work, write, travel, and lecture. He saw his PhD students finish and ensured that all members of the lab had secure funding for the next few years. 

He led a most amazing and far too short life with his utmost pride and love always very clearly with his wife Fran, and his two lovely daughters Immy and Jemima.  

He will be missed across the King’s community and further.

Professor Ellen Solomon

Head of Cancer Genetics Research Group
Division of Genetics & Molecular Medicine