Fuelling the future

A conversation with Maria García, a long-term supporter of Cancer Research UK and the Crick.

Maria and Gonzalo García. Image credit: Simon Way

Maria and Gonzalo García. Image credit: Simon Way

In February 2024, Cancer Research UK launched More Research, Less Cancer - the largest ever philanthropic campaign by a UK charity. One of the funding priorities of the campaign is to power life-changing discovery science at the Francis Crick Institute.

The institute was purpose-built for discovery without boundaries. A place where more than 1,500 scientists from different disciplines work together to understand more about human health and disease. A place where the barriers between academia, healthcare and industry are dissolved, and where skilled creative teams work in open spaces that connect open minds.

Maria García, who has supported Cancer Research UK and the Crick for several years, has always believed in giving back. A trained lawyer from Chile, Maria moved to the UK in 1991 with her husband, Gonzalo, and their two young children.

Gonzalo, who is now partner at Goldman Sachs, had received a scholarship from the British Council, without which Maria says the move would have been “absolutely impossible”. Maria and Gonzalo have wanted to give back ever since.

Fast forward to 2024 and they are supporting Helene Foissner, a PhD student studying bone marrow and blood cancer at the Crick. We sat down with Maria to learn more about her passion for supporting future leaders in science.

Maria García. Image credit: Simon Way.

Maria García. Image credit: Simon Way.

What inspires you to support the Crick?

I love anything to do with buildings, so I was fascinated by the idea of creating something purpose-built to bring people together. The concept of having different labs and research teams together and harnessing that collaboration with each other – it’s the first of its kind in the UK and I think it’s incredible.

Personally, I also wanted to support the work of the Crick as my mother suffered badly from cancer but was able to receive a pioneering treatment in Chile that allowed her to survive it.

How did your relationship with the Crick begin?

We have been involved from the very beginning. Charles Manby, the original chairman of the group who organised the initial funding for the Crick, worked with my husband at Goldman Sachs.

I visited a few times when it was a building site. I loved getting to see it come together – especially the rooms for different viruses in the bowels of the building.

Is empowering women in science important to you?

The fact that the Crick invites schools to come in and meet scientists is great. It’s important for children to see scientists of all genders doing the work, as well as people from different ethnicities and backgrounds. I’ve always told my children that as long as you have ideas and are willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.

What made you want to support a PhD student in Dominique Bonnet's lab?

What first caught my eye was that it’s a lab with a woman’s name. Twenty years ago, it would have been so rare to see that. And I’ve always felt passionately about supporting young people – they are the ones who need to move the world forward. I have four children and the world is theirs to make the best of it.

I was also inspired by the research the lab is doing into bone marrow and blood cancer. The daughter of a friend of ours sadly died of leukaemia so I wanted to support in her memory.

What does philanthropy mean to you?

I came to the UK with my husband thanks to a scholarship from the British Council, which funded our first year while he was a student. We wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. We sold everything we had and packed up with our two kids.

I knew then that if I was ever able to, I would give back.

When you help people to advance knowledge and research, everyone benefits.
Maria García

Maria and Gonzalo García are supporting PhD student Helene Foissner. Image credit: Steve Potvin.

Maria and Gonzalo García are supporting PhD student Helene Foissner. Image credit: Steve Potvin.