Drs David & Bee Flavell the joint Scientific Directors of Leukaemia Busters are also the charity’s co-founders.
They first met as PhD students in 1975 at the University of Sheffield Medical School. Since 1979 they have worked together almost continuously taking up posts at the University of London in 1979 and then the University of Southampton in 1984. They both now hold honorary contracts with the University of Southampton whilst acting as full time as Scientific Directors for Leukaemia Busters.
Dr David J Flavell BSc PhD FRCPath - Scientific Director
David Flavell obtained his Bachelor of Science degree with honours in applied Biology from Liverpool in 1975, specialising during his final year in immunology and biochemistry. Always interested in cancer research from a very early age he naturally progressed to undertake a course of research in cancer immunology that led to a PhD from the University of Sheffield in 1978. Following award of his PhD he obtained a personal Wellcome Trust Fellowship in 1978 to undertake research into the role played by the liver parasite Opisthorchis viverini that causes a type of liver cancer in infected humans in the Far East. He then spent the next year and a half establishing a laboratory and conducting research work on this parasite at Siriraj Hospital the largest teaching hospital in Bangkok. In 1979 he returned to England and continued with this research at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, part of the University of London until the end of 1983.
At the beginning of 1984 David took up a senior postdoctoral research position at the University of Southampton, working firstly in the Tenovus Laboratories and then a year later with Professor Dennis Wright who invited him to establish a new monoclonal antibody laboratory in the University Department of Pathology at Southampton General Hospital. Here he developed and produced highly successful antibodies for use in the diagnosis of haematological malignancies with personal fellowships and grant support from the Medical Research Council, Leukaemia Research Fund and Cancer Research Campaign. David was made Senior Lecturer in the University Department of Pathology in 1994.
The formation of Leukaemia Busters enabled David to move his diagnostic antibody work into treatment, a step that required a major quantum leap in effort and resources required. David continued to work as honorary Scientific Director for Leukaemia Busters while still employed by the University of Southampton up until mid-2005 whereupon he transferred full time to Leukaemia Busters as the charity’s Scientific Director. Under his direction several antibody-based drugs for the treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma were developed two of which have been tested in patients participating in three separate early phase clinical trials. David was largely responsible for the first national clinical trial of an antibody-based treatment in children with relapsed leukaemia that took place collaboratively with the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG now the CCSG) and Cancer research Campaign (now Cancer Research UK) between 2001 and 2003.
David has authored numerous original scientific papers and book chapters in the cancer field that have all appeared in high ranking international medical journals and regularly presents his work at international conferences worldwide. David has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research since 1993 and a member of the American Society of Hematology since 1997. In 1996 David became a Member of the Royal College of Pathologists on the strength of his research work and in 2003 was made a Fellow of the same Royal College.
Dr Sopsamorn (Bee) U Flavell BSc PhD - Executive Scientific Director
Bee Flavell obtained her first degree in Medical Technology from Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand in 1973 after which she became a lecturer in the Faculty of Medical Technology at Siriraj Hospital. In late 1974 she obtained a scholarship from the Thai government to undertake a course of research for a PhD in the UK at the University of Sheffield Medical School. Here she conducted research work into the role of a group of blood proteins known as complement and their role in the antibody-mediated pathogenesis of human autoimmune disease.
In 1978 Bee returned to Thailand to take up the post of Lecturer back in her old faculty at Mahidol University in Bangkok. She then returned to England and to work alongside her husband David at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (University of London) with a personal Fellowship from The Wellcome Trust to work on liver fluke infection and the part it plays in the causation of cholangiocarcinoma in infected humans. She brought to the liver fluke project her own special skill set in immunology and the quantitative and qualitative analysis of serum proteins that were important markers of the disease processes leading to cancer caused by this parasite.
In 1984 Bee moved to Southampton with her husband David, and took up the post of Senior Research Fellow in the University Department of Haematology at the Medical School. Here she won two separate grants from the pharmaceutical industry in the first instance to study the effects of a new cytotoxic drug, Mitoxantrone against acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cells. At this point Bee started collaborating closely with her husband David on making monoclonal antibodies against other small molecule cytotoxic drugs eventually succeeding in producing antibodies against Mitoxantrone, Daunorubicin, Cytosine Arabinoside and Methotrexate. Many individual monoclonal antibodies of value in the diagnosis of haematological malignancies were produced by Bee and her husband David during the period 1984 to 1988.
Bee played a significant role in the formation of Leukaemia Busters alongside her husband David and two other parents, Julie Daws and Wendy Sutcliffe whose young sons were being treated for T-cell lymphoma at Southampton General Hospital in 1988. Bee turned her full attention to the development of some of the antibodies that she and her husband David had made in the past for use in the treatment of leukaemia and lymphoma, eventually founding the Simon Flavell Leukaemia Research Laboratory at Southampton General Hospital as a living memorial to the ten year old son she and David lost with leukaemia in 1990. Her work is still spearheaded from this laboratory to this day.