An interview with Lance Kawaguchi (Chairman of Asian Fund for Cancer Research and CEO of Cure Brain cancer Foundation) and Alfred Ip (Partner at Hugill & Ip)

Earlier this month Hugill & Ip and AFCR once again joined hands in the fight against cancer, through the launch of the Double Your Impact campaign. The law firm is matching direct donations to AFCR received this month, as well as raising funds from other corporate entities and individuals. The firm will also offer free Estate Planning services for minimum donations of HK$3,800 that donors directly give to the organisation. Moreover, the campaign wishes to increase awareness about legal issues associated with cancer.

AFCR dedicate to funding cancer research and promoting global collaborations to save the lives of cancer patients, with a focus on cancers prevalent in Asian populations. As a proud member of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and in support of the ”Close The Care Gap” movement, AFCR continues to fund innovative solutions to eliminate unequal access to cancer care and treatment in the region. AFCR commits to making an impact in the fight against cancer and continues to support ground-breaking research that benefits people affected by the disease.

How did you first get involved in the fight against cancer?

(Lance Kawaguchi): My involvement in the fight against cancer stems from a deeply personal experience. The loss of my mother to pancreatic cancer in 2016 left a profound impact on me. As I sat by her bedside, holding her hand during her final days, she challenged me to do something meaningful with my life and to give back to society in a significant way. The words she spoke to me, “Lance, be the change you want to see in your life,” inspired me to take action.

Working in the investment banking industry most of my career, I have the determination to fulfill my promise to my mother and find a way to make a positive impact on society. With this in mind, I began to research ways in which I could give back, focusing specifically on the cancer and non-profit arenas, which were both new to me.

Despite the challenges I had in navigating these new areas, I get drive by my commitment to honoring my mother’s memory. And making a meaningful difference in the fight against cancer.

(Alfred Ip): Similarly, my inspiration to join the fight against cancer comes from personal experience – ten years ago, within 6 months of one another, I lost both my mother and my mother-in-law. It was heart-breaking. They were in their late 60s and affected by advanced-stage lung cancer. In addition to this, whilst using my professional expertise in helping clients with their Estate Planning, I’ve seen a large number of clients affected by cancer. I also regularly work with the families and friends of recently deceased cancer victims by assisting them with the probate process, allowing them to access their rights to assets as beneficiaries of the deceased.

Hence, on both the personal and professional side, there is a strong desire and commitment to contribute to this fight. There have been many improvements. But there is still some way to go before cancer’s devastating impacts on our loved ones. And ourselves are eliminated.

What does World Cancer Day mean to your organisation?

(Lance Kawaguchi): As a CEO and board member of multiple non-profit organisations dedicated to fighting cancer, I find World Cancer Day to be particularly impactful. On this day, the member organisations of UICC, along with many more non-member organisations, come together to present a united front, speaking with one voice on a shared theme. This helps to raise awareness and remind individuals and institutions of the various ways in which they can contribute to ending cancer.

I am a strong advocate for collaboration and mutual support among organisations working towards the same goal. By working together, I believe we can achieve great progress in the fight against cancer. World Cancer Day embodies this belief. And serves as a demonstration of the impact that can make through unity and cooperation.

(Alfred Ip): We try to do our best to support World Cancer Day and – aside from financially contributing and raising much needed funds from corporate and individual donors – we wish to spread awareness about legal aspects related to cancer. Joining the campaign under the powerful lead of such an amazing organisation as UICC is a natural extension of our continued support for AFCR.

Real impact achieve when people and organisations work together and emphasise needs, progress and challenges related to a cause. Through individuals and organisations contributing together (no matter how big or small) we raise and tackle issues, which leads to lasting change. We join hands to make difference.

Please update us about recent developments of your organisation and its efforts related to cancer

(Lance Kawaguchi): AFCR has expanded its funding support to encompass all three segments of the cancer research spectrum. Basic research, which is at the forefront of the spectrum, is focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the underlying science behind cancer. This type of research lays the foundation for further advancements in the field by providing a better understanding of the disease.

Translational research, which is in the middle of the spectrum, takes the findings from basic research and applies them to develop new technologies that can improve cancer treatment and diagnosis. For example, this type of research may lead to the development of better drugs or diagnostic tools that can detect cancer earlier, improving patient outcomes.

At the back end of the spectrum is clinical research, which involves testing experimental drugs and diagnostic tools on patients in a safe and controlled manner. This type of research is critical to determining the efficacy and safety of new cancer treatments, and is a key step in bringing new treatments to market.

By funding all three segments of the research spectrum, AFCR is demonstrating its commitment to supporting cancer research in its entirety, from the earliest stages of discovery to the final steps of testing treatments on patients. This comprehensive approach to funding research will help to accelerate the pace of discovery and ultimately lead to better cancer treatments for patients.

(Alfred Ip): Since Hugill & Ip opened in 2018, our business has grown and expanded, and has matured in terms of our contributions to the community. We are a small boutique law firm so the impacts we make cannot be compared to larger organisations, however we like to think we punch above our weight. Our ongoing pro-bono legal support given to AFCR together with fundraising, donations and spreading legal awareness about cancer are valuable steps that can lead to change in the fight against cancer.

Can you tell us more about AFCR’s BRACE Awards?

(Lance Kawaguchi): The BRACE Award Program is a flagship initiative of AFCR aimed at supporting the growth and development of early-stage biotechnology start-ups that focus on Asian prevalent cancers. By providing vital funding through the BRACE Award, AFCR offers a lifeline for start-ups engaged in translational research, which allows them to develop new technologies, such as better drugs or diagnostic tools that detect cancer earlier.

One of the program’s unique features is that it provides a platform for start-ups to present their innovative solutions and ideas to a panel of experts in cancer research, biotech investment, and the life sciences industry. The panel comprises world-class cancer researchers, biotech investors, and life sciences industry executives who provide valuable insights and advice to the applicants.

Winning the BRACE Award is a significant accomplishment for young start-ups as it not only provides them with funding support from AFCR but also offers a range of benefits that can help to propel their businesses forward. These benefits include access to the organisation’s extensive network of cancer experts, greater visibility and publicity, which can help to attract more investment and partnerships. Overall, the BRACE Award program is an important initiative that helps to foster the growth of early-stage biotechnology companies and promote the development of new solutions in the fight against cancer.

(Alfred Ip): I simply echo Lance’s comments: new and creative initiatives – like the BRACE Awards – are incredibly valuable tools. They foster new ideas and approaches as well as giving a lifeline to startups that can make an impact in cancer prevention.

Hong Kong has incredible potential for becoming a new laboratory of ideas and business ventures, attracting the right talent to support such growth. Many individuals in our firm come from different cultures and backgrounds, but we all take pride in pushing the envelope for Hong Kong and its further development. This is the home which we all have chosen. We feel especially strong about AFCR’s BRACE Awards and its commitment to funding cancer research, especially those cancers prevalent in Asian populations, and promoting global collaborations to save the lives of cancer patients. 

How important is Corporate Social Responsibility for you?

(Lance Kawaguchi): Extremely! In particular, championing diversity and inclusivity and serving as a role model have long been priorities of mine. In 2017, while with HSBC and living in London, my efforts in this regard were recognised by my inclusion in the BAME 100 Index, which recognises top Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in businesses across the United Kingdom. Each of the various cancer charities I now serve as board member or chief executive of have female board chairs, presidents and/or CEOs, including AFCR’s founder, president and CEO, Sujuan Ba.

(Alfred Ip): When my fellow partner Adam Hugill and I decided to set up Hugill & Ip, one of the first core values that we shared was to give back to our community, so I would say that CSR is truly part of our DNA.

By being more involved in the community we develop a better working environment for our staff, nurture social inclusion and provide better services for our clients. Giving back not only creates a positive impact on others, we also see it as our moral duty as we all take so much from the environment and society in general. We are lucky enough to be in a position where we can give back, so we should.

Specifically, we focus on social issues that are very dear to us both as individuals and as a firm overall. Aside from the fight against cancer, we feel very passionate about other issues – e.g. the environment, the protection of disadvantaged people (Migrant Domestic Workers, the elderly and children), equality and LGBTQ rights. These are causes to dedicate time and effort to, and we plan to continue getting involve in the future.

What’s your advice to individuals affected by cancer?

(Lance Kawaguchi): It’s important to acknowledge that individuals who are affected by cancer are often going through a difficult time, and their primary focus should be on their own well-being and recovery. However, for those who are in a position to do so, I encourage them to consider taking time to give back to society, such as volunteering for a cancer-related organisation, participating in fundraising events, or sharing your story to raise awareness about the impact of cancer.

I believe that when people are faced with adversity, they have two options: they can either let it define them or they can use it as an opportunity for growth.

(Alfred Ip): Plan, plan, plan… it’s never too early to start! In fact, time is not only key in the prevention and early detection of cancer, but also in how to protect your loved ones and/or social causes you care about.

Of course, when someone is struck with cancer or a terminal illness the need for Estate Planning becomes even more urgent and crucial. As Estate Planning solicitors, we do our best to assist people in such circumstances by ensuring the smooth transition of assets to loved ones, and by assisting in any complications that may arise as a result of the situation. A thorough Estate Planning set up or review can help put the patient’s mind at ease and achieve the ultimate goal of protecting them and their families.

Please tell us more about your plans in the next 12 months:

(Lance Kawaguchi): It is with great honour and excitement that I announce my upcoming South Pole trek in December, with the aim to raise awareness about cancer, highlight the power of collaboration among organisations dedicated to fighting the disease, and to raise much-needed funds critical for research.

This trek is a first of its kind as no brain cancer charity CEO has ever attempted to hike to the South Pole, let alone on behalf of their organisation and others. I hope this bold move will capture the attention of people and inspire them to take action in the fight against cancer by generously contributing to this important cause.

(Alfred Ip): We still plan to remain focused on our key practice areas and on providing clients with exceptional legal advice and service. This year we will further strengthen our position with the addition of more solicitors and support staff to the team.

In the past few years, we have experienced tremendous growth in our Private Client – both advisory and contentious – and our Family and Matrimonial practice. We are confident that with the end of the pandemic situation and related restrictions in Hong Kong, we will also see the Corporate & Commercial area getting more active.

In terms of social responsibility, we will keep representing some disadvantaged individuals on a pro-bono basis and continue spreading legal awareness and raising funds, especially related to causes involving the elderly and children in need. 

Posted by Asia Law Portal

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