Professor El-Nasir Lalani, receiving the Khatija and Mohan Manji Dhrolia Endowed Chair in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine from Vice Provost and Dean, Professor Anjum Halai
Professor El-Nasir Lalani was awarded the Khatija and Mohan Manji Dhrolia Endowed Chair in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in a virtual investiture ceremony held on April 29, 2021. The ceremony was held in the presence of Dr Haile T Debas, Chairman AKU Board of Trustees, President Firoz Rasul, Provost and Vice President, Academic Dr Carl Amrhein, AKU senior leadership, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the Manji Dhrolia family, and Professor Lalani's family and friends.
Speaking to the significance of the occasion, President Rasul said: “To be awarded an endowed chair is to receive one of the most prestigious honours granted by this University to a member of faculty. At AKU, as at other universities around the world, an endowed chair is a coveted academic distinction. It signals the approbation not only of the institution awarding it, but of the wider scholarly community. It is a pinnacle in any career, and a recognition that Professor Lalani unquestionably deserves."
Dr Lalani is Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Translational Medicine and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Pathology and founding director of AKU's Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, a position he has held since 2016. He is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and the Higher Education Academy, UK. He has served as Director of the Pakistan Medical and Research Council, member of the UK Department of Health Human Tissue Authority and as a member of numerous other national and international ethics committees. He received his BSc (Honours) from University of Dundee, his MBChB from University of Edinburgh, and his PhD from University College, London.
In his address, President Firoz Rasul recognised “the extraordinary contributions of Professor El-Nasir Lalani to his students, to the advancement of knowledge in regenerative medicine and stem cell science, and to the growth and development of research at the Aga Khan University".
This new chair will support cutting-edge research in a field that is one of the most exciting in health sciences, and that has been identified as a priority by the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. Still a young discipline, stem cell science and regenerative medicine is poised to lead to revolutionary new ways of diagnosing and treating everything from heart disease to cancer. At AKU, Professor Lalani has carried the leadership of this programme through the start-up phase to the recruitment of a team to early results from this cutting-edge science.
Professor Lalani is a strong proponent for promoting groundbreaking research in stem cell and regenerative medicine in low middle income countries, arguing that it would be unethical if equal access to new therapies were not made possible from the outset in these countries. As the inaugural holder of this chair, Professor Lalani will forever hold a unique place in the history of AKU.
“To be selected as the inaugural recipient of this award is an honour for me", Professor Lalani said. “I share this honour with my past and present graduate students and colleagues. The award will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on moving forward the ambitious research programmes at AKU-CRM."
The Chair is generously funded by the Manji Dhrolia family, and named in honour of Khatija and Mohan Manji Dhrolia. Their son, Mr Ashak Manji, speaking about their family's commitment to promoting cutting edge science, said: “As the pandemic and events of the past year have shown, it has never been more important to continue funding efforts at the forefront of medical research, the fruits of which we hope will be borne by generations to come."
The President thanked the family of Khatija and Mohan Manji Dhrolia for their vision and generosity since the founding of AKU and described the newly established Endowed Chair as a worthy monument to honour their beloved parents. The endowment will last in perpetuity, for as long as AKU exists, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and impacting future generations.