HELPING save lives is all in a day’s work for Mark Lowdell.

The internationally-renowned scientist is the professor of cell and tissue therapy at University College London.

His daily work involves developing new ways of treating blood cancers and solid tumours.

Although a cure for leukaemia is still elusive, Prof Lowdell expects it can become a chronic illness, one which can be controlled rather than fatal.

It is an almost inconceivable ambition - but Prof Lowdell is optimistic.

Prof Lowdell, who is 54, lives in the quiet village of Beaumont.

He was born in Sussex and initially studied zoology at University of London, before gaining further degrees in clinical immunology and human immunology at the London Hospital Medical School.

Prof Lowdell said: “I was interested in evolution as a zoologist. The best example of evolution is immune response.

“The immune response to cancer and infections evolves over time in response to the infection or the cancer cells.

“Each evolves to evade the other and you can map that.

“ It’s a fantastic opportunity to look at how selected mutations in immune cells clear an infection or a tumour.”

After university, Prof Lowdell trained as a clinical scientist at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and became a diagnostic immunopathologist.

His PhD work saw him develop an interest into how the immune response of people can be modified to treat cancer.

In the late 1980s, the newly-emerging field of immunotherapy of cancer was about to take off.

In 1994, Prof Lowdell left the Royal London Hospital for the Royal Free Hospital and became scientific director of the bone marrow transplant programme, a treatment which is used to treat people with leukaemia and other blood cancers.

“Transplants allow patients to generate an immune response against their leukaemia and my research was how to maximise the beneficial immune response for the patient.

“We discovered a whole new way of generating an immune response against cancer,” he said.

Ten years of clinical trials in London and the US followed, which have shown improved survival in some patients and have now moved into the next stage of development.

“Perhaps we don’t need to find a cure for leukaemia but instead we turn it into a chronic disease so patients die of something else.

“ I think we can do that with leukaemia. That’s one of my goals,” he said.

For more than 20 years, Prof Lowdell has also worked with the Antony Nolan Trust, the major blood cancer charity which helps deliver life-saving transplants and funds research.

Another aspect of his work at University College London, as the professor of cell tissue therapy, is in the field of regenerative medicine.

Such work saw him work with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London using stem cells to build a wind pipe for a young boy, saving his life.

He also has projects repairing the voice boxes of people with larynx cancer and using patients’ stem cells to treat chronic Achilles tendon injury “We have 15 different clinical trials at present across a wide cell, gene and tissue therapy programme,” he said.

Prof Lowdell said the main challenge in his job was “keeping the bicycle running”.

“I have 32 staff, most funded by research grants. I have to keep them employed. I have to chase around for research money. I have to manage the expectations of staff and patients. “People can read things on the web which might not be right and they need responsible, accurate advice and information.”

However, there is the enormous satisfaction of taking a concept to trial with ground-breaking responses. There is also the diversity of the job and the pleasure of communicating it to students, patients, legislators and members of the public.

He continued: “Our job is to change medical practice by making new therapies which are cheaper and better alternatives to current therapies.”

But there is also life outside the laboratory. Mark is married to Marion, who is a consultant blood doctor at Colchester General Hospital.

The couple trained, worked and lived in London until 1993 when they moved to Manningtree before settling in Beaumont ten years ago.

Marion became a consultant at Colchester General Hospital and then the medical director before taking semi-retirement. She now works as a consultant haematologist for the East Anglian Pathology Partnership.

The couple have a small yacht which they sail on the Walton backwaters and they are also members of Frinton and Walton Yacht Club. They also actively fundraise as friends of the St Leonard’s Church in Beaumont village.

It all means Prof Lowdell faces long daily commutes to London but the satisfaction and importance of his work is incentive enough.

He was honoured by the Anthony Nolan trust for his work and he received the award gratefully.

“I was really honoured to receive an award from the Anthony Nolan. It is a unique organisation; the first and largest individual bone marrow registry in the world. It substantially changes people’s lives.

“Without the Nolan and its dedicated team of supporters and staff there would be 3,000 people who wouldn’t have had a transplant last year. These are lifesaving transplants.”

He urges people to register with the Nolan as potential donors., especially those of a mixed-race background as their blood-types are in short supply, making it hard to find suitable donor matches for mixed race patients..

“It only takes a small amount of blood to join the register, you don’t have to donate bone marrow. One day you may have the opportunity to save someone’s life, which is a remarkable achievement.”

He should know.