The biennial Oon Award and Lecture honours distinguished researchers in preventative medicine, and the Oon Khye Beng Ch'hia Tsio Studentships support undergraduates and graduates undertaking biomedical research.

The Ch'hia Tsio Project was established in February 1976 following a donation from Mr Oon Khye Beng to Downing College, his alma mater. Its purpose was to support research on preventive medicine, and the first grants were awarded that year when the then Master, Professor John Butterfield (later Lord Butterfield) chaired the advisory panel.

Ch'hia Tsio translates as "bare rock", which describes the sparse and rocky terrain on an area near Xiamen in Fukien Province where the Oon ancestral home was situated. The conditions in early 20th century China encouraged the wave of migration to South East Asia and the Oon family found their way to Penang, Malaya

The Trust Fund was set up in recognition of Oon Khye Beng's matriculation as a Queen's Scholar in 1927. This scholarship was awarded annually to the top 'O' level student from the Straits Settlement in Malaya. Oon Khye Beng graduated in 1930 with a degree in Mechanical Sciences. He was the first local electrical engineer in Malaya and he involved himself in the tin mining industry near Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. As he was both Chinese and Cambridge educated, he was able to relate to the owners of the mines and communicate with them in their dialects whilst also being accepted by the British administrators who regulated the mining processes.

His interest in human health came about as a result of his experiences during the war years, 1941-46, when he was alone in Singapore, separated from his family who had been shipped to India. Oon Khye Beng encouraged his children to go into medicine: Chong-Teik (MB, BChir '63), Chong Jin (MB, BChir '64 and MD '75) and Chong Hau (MB, BChir '73). He hoped that the Trust Fund would help Downing to expand the horizons of a new generation of medical researchers in the area of human health.

The early projects in the 70s and 80s helped to fund research in the Departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Biochemistry, Psychology, and the Clinical School at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in the University of Cambridge. By 2005-06 the Oon Khye Beng Ch'hia Tsio Studentships had grown to support eight studentships and five small grants for research.

The project has provided opportunities for several generations of undergraduates and graduates to undertake biomedical research (often in the long vacation), to participate in scientific conferences, undertake internships in international health agencies and to travel to less privileged communities for projects in preventive medicine.

In 1992 the biennial Oon International Award and Lecture in Preventive Medicine was established following discussions with the then Master, Professor Barry Everitt FRS, and Sir Keith Peters (Regius Professor of Physic) to encourage internationally renowned biomedical researchers to come to Cambridge to share their medical knowledge with students and colleagues. Distinguished past lecturers include Professor David Lomas, Cambridge (1996), Professor Alain Townsend, Oxford (1998), Dr Margaret Liu, Chiron Corporation, USA (2000), Professor Andrew Wilkie, Oxford (2002), Dr Peter St George-Hyslop, Toronto (2004), Dr Jeremy Farrar, the Oxford Clinical Research Unit at the Vietnam Hospital for Tropical Disease (2006), Dr Douglas A Melton, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University (2009) and Dr Charles L Sawyers of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York (2011).

These occasions allow students, Fellows, and the University's biomedical research community both to hear about cutting edge biomedical research and to meet with a world renowned medical researcher in an informal setting, thereby greatly encouraging the exchange of information and ideas.

The brothers Chong Hau and Chong Jin continue actively to support the project and firmly believe that the Oon Khye Beng and Ch'hia Tsio Trust Fund should remind us that, as we have benefited from the generosity of those who came before us, we should also contribute to the present and help to guide research that will contribute to a better and healthier future.

Oon Prize/Award Winners and their Lectures

1996: Dr David Lomas

Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge Clinical School

Molecular Mousetraps and Liver Disease

1998: Professor Alain Townsend

Professor of Molecular Immunology, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford University

The Immunology of Virus Infections – inside out!

2000: Dr Margaret A Liu

Vice President, Vaccines Research and Gene Therapy, Chiron Corporation

Gene Vaccines: Second-Generation DNA Vaccines and DC-Tropic Alphavirus Replicons

2002: Professor Andrew Wilkie

Professor of Genetics and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow University of Oxford

Malformations of the skull and limbs; a story of gains and losses.

2004: Dr Peter St George-Hyslop

Senior Scientist, Division of Genomic Medicine, Toronto Western Research Institute

Genetics and Biology of Alzheimer's Disease: clues for therapies.

2006: Professor Jeremy Farrar

Director, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, The Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Vietnam

Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Implications for International Health.

2009: Dr Douglas A Melton

Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University

How to make pancreatic insulin-producing cells.

2011: Dr Charles L Sawyers

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chair, Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Overcoming cancer drug resistance

2014: Dr Daniel J Drucker

Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

L cell pharmacology advances the treatment of diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders.

2015: Professor Stefan Hell

Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, and 2014 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry

Fluorescent nanoscopy: principles and recent advancements.

2018: Professor Mihaela van der Schaar

John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Medicine

Medicine 2.0: Transforming Clinical Practice and Discovery through Machine Learning and Electronic Health Engines

2020: Dr Richard Henderson 

Group leader at the MRC's Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Structure-based Drug Design Using Electron Cryomicroscopy

2022: Professor Patrick F Chinnery & Professor Sir John E Walker

Head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (Chinnery) & Emeritus Director/Nobel Laureate (Walker) 

Mitochondria: from molecules to medicine