The Wellcome Trust – the world’s largest non-governmental funder of biomedical research* – is branching out into venture capital. The London-based organization announced today (20 March) that it would launch a £200 million business to invest directly in health-care and life-sciences companies. That’s a small but noteworthy change of strategy for the charity, which hands out £600 million in research grants each year and has a £14 billion endowment.
Wellcome has invested in biotech companies in the past; indeed, right now it already has £148 million invested in life-sciences and health-care businesses, but indirectly through the £2.7 billion it has invested in venture-capital firms in the year to 30 September 2011. The new venture fund marks its largest direct effort to invest in biotech start-ups.
Coming a day ahead of the UK’s budget, biotech business were obviously pleased. The UK’s trade association, the BioIndustry Association, said the decision would provide “a significant boost to companies developing new medicines”.
*not counting the Gates Foundation – but Wellcome probably beats that organization in funding for pure research.