Professor John Hickman trained in the UK in Pharmacy, has a PhD in organic chemistry and a Masters in Biochemistry. He was an MRC postdoctoral fellow in cancer pharmacology the Institute of Cancer Research in London before academic posts in Liverpool, Birmingham, Yale University and Manchester. At Manchester University, he was the Astra-Zeneca professor of Molecular Pharmacology. In Birmingham he was the lead pharmacologist for a programme that discovered Temozolamide (Temodal). His academic interests in Manchester focused on the role of apoptosis in determining anticancer drug sensitivity and resistance. Leaving Manchester in 1999 he built a cancer drug discovery team at the private pharmaceutical company Servier in Paris. Some of the drugs entering clinical trial from that period are inhibitors of the BCL-2 family (inducing apoptosis) and will be co-developed in the clinic with Novartis. Retiring in 2005, he was co-initiator and subsequently coordinator of an EU Innovative Medicines Initiative programme PREDECT (www.predect.eu) to investigate in vitro models of cancer that better represent its complexity and heterogeneity. He continues to pursue programmes that address an over-reliance on scientific reductionism in medicine.