Indian-origin cancer researcher Harpal Singh Kumar knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

An Indian-origin cancer research expert Harpal Singh Kumar on 31 December 2015 received a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his influential work on prevention and treatment of cancer.

Singh’s name appeared in the annual New Year’s Honours list that includes several other Indian-origin individuals. Sir Harpal Singh Kumar (born 1965) is chief executive officer of Cancer Research UK.

Kumar’s parents were both refugees. As Sikhs, they had to leave what was to become Pakistan and move to India, where they ended up in refugee camps. Later they moved to England, where his father was employed sweeping factory floors, before eventually starting his own grocery store.

Harpal Singh Kumar

Kumar attended St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, where he gained a MEng degree and an MA degree and won the Mobil Prize, Metal Box Prize, and Hughes Prize. He subsequently gained an MBA degree with High Distinction as a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School where he won the Ford Prize and the Wolfe Prize

After graduation, Kumar was employed by McKinsey and Co. as a healthcare consultant. In 1992 he was appointed chief executive of the disability charity the Papworth Trust. In 1997 he founded Nexan Group, a venture capital-backed medical devices company. He joined Cancer Research Technology Limited as chief executive in 2002 and became chief operating officer of Cancer Research UK in 2004. He became chief executive officer in April 2007.

Among his other roles, Kumar is a trustee of the Francis Crick Institute and the Institute for Cancer Research, and chairman of the Board of the National Cancer Research Institute. He is also chairman of the Cancer Outcomes Strategy Advisory Group in England and co-chair of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative.

  • A knighthood is one of the highest honours an individual in the United Kingdom can achieve.
  • A knighthood cannot be bought and it carries no military obligations to the Sovereign.
  • The Queen or a member of the Royal Family acting on her behalf confers knighthoods in Britain, either at a public investiture or privately.
  • The ceremony involves the ceremonial dubbing of the knight by The Queen and the presentation of insignia.