The London-based Wellcome Trust has announced the launch of a £250 million (approximately $332 million) fund that will invest in ambitious research programs with the potential to fundamentally change science and transform health over five to ten years.
The Wellcome Leap Fund will support scientists, technologists, and innovators from around the world, enabling them to pursue bold ideas that fall outside the scope of conventional life sciences funding because they are deemed too high risk, because they need to overcome a major scientific or technical hurdle, or because the individual with the idea does not have an academic background in the life sciences. The fund, which plans to begin funding projects by late 2020, seeks to support unconventional ideas and bring together outstanding individuals from a range of disciplines and sectors to work in parallel on solving problems.
The fund is intended to complement the trust's regular charitable giving, which totals more than £1 billion (approximately, $1.3 billion) annually. Leap funding will come from a separate Reserve Fund that was established last year to support ambitious programs where the trust has the capacity to drive significant progress. The ultimate goal is to establish the Leap Fund as a wholly owned charitable subsidiary of the trust that is governed by an independent board, enabling it to draw on the depth of experience and networks that Wellcome has in the health and life sciences fields while also giving its CEO the freedom to act in the flaxible, risk-taking way needed to succeed.
"Blue skies, curiosity-driven research is the bedrock of every major scientific and technological breakthrough of the past hundred years. It's essential to the process of innovation," said Wellcome Trust 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."