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Wellcome Trust announces £250m fund for high risk ideas

Published on 11/07/18 at 10:37am
Image Credit: Howard Luke

The London-based biomedical research charity the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s wealthiest foundation, has announced the launch of a new £250 million fund that will place “big bets” on ambitious research programmes aimed at fundamentally transforming science and health.

The Wellcome Leap Fund will support scientists, technologists and innovators from around the world in the pursuit of bold ideas that would be unlikely to receive funding through conventional channels. In drawing inspiration from the technology and venture capital industries, the not-for-profit fund will back unconventional, high risk ideas as it aims to bring together outstanding individuals from across sectors and disciplines.

“Blue skies, curiosity-driven research is the bedrock of every major scientific and technological breakthrough of the past 100 years. It’s essential to the process of innovation,” said Wellcome Director Jeremy Farrar. “But many scientists have ambitious, potentially transformational ideas that don’t fit the standard funding model. They require unconventional and disruptive thinking, backed by funders with the scale and risk appetite to make big bets on something they know may not succeed, but would be transformational if it did. As an independent charitable foundation, Wellcome is well placed to enter this space and to deliver significant leaps in progress, by taking a long-term view and providing the freedom to pursue a bold vision at scale and speed.” 

If successful the Wellcome Leap Fund aims to have produced a small number of transformational breakthroughs by 2030. It is hoped that these breakthroughs will open up entirely new areas of research, allow new scientific questions to be answered and deliver transformative health benefits.

Through the expansion of the Wellcome’s overall charity activity, which already provides more than £1 billion in support of science, research, innovation and public engagement around the world, the £250 million fund will account for around 5% of the Wellcome’s total spending between now and 2020, at which point the first research programmes will begin.

John Bell, Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, commented that: “The Leap Fund is an exciting and ambitious addition to the life sciences funding landscape. In taking this bold approach, Wellcome will provide much-needed support for the pursuit of big ideas that might otherwise struggle to find backing.”

Louis Goss

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