Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a research charity based in London, United Kingdom. It was established in 1936 with legacies from the pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome to fund research to improve human and animal health. The aim of the Trust is to "achieve extraordinary improvements in health by supporting the brightest minds", and in addition to funding biomedical research it supports the public understanding of science. It had a financial endowment of £25.9 billion in 2018,[4] making it the fourth wealthiest charitable foundation in the world, after the American Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Danish Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Dutch INGKA Foundation (related to the IKEA company).

Wellcome Trust
Founded1936 (1936)
FounderSir Henry Wellcome
Registration no.210183
FocusBiomedical Research
HeadquartersLondon, NW1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°31′32.55″N 0°8′6.07″W
Area served
United Kingdom and overseas
Key people
Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller[1]
Dr Jeremy Farrar[2]
Disbursements£11 billion (1936-2015)[3]
Endowment£25.9 billion[4]

The Trust has been described by the Financial Times as the United Kingdom's largest provider of non-governmental funding for scientific research, and one of the largest providers in the world.[6]


The Trust was established to administer the fortune of the American-born pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome.[7] Its income was derived from what was originally called Burroughs Wellcome, later renamed in the UK as the Wellcome Foundation Ltd.[8] In 1986, the trust sold 25% of Wellcome plc stock to the public. Overseen by incoming Director of Finance Ian Macgregor, this marked the beginning of a period of financial growth that saw the Trust's value increase by almost £14bn in 14 years, as their interests moved beyond the bounds of the pharmaceutical industry.[9]

In 1995, the trust divested itself of any interest in pharmaceuticals by selling all remaining stock to Glaxo plc, the company's historic British rival, creating GlaxoWellcome plc. In 2000, the Wellcome name disappeared from the drug business altogether when GlaxoWellcome merged with SmithKline Beecham, to form GlaxoSmithKline plc.[10]


Biomedical research

Major investments

The Trust funds or co-funds a number of major biomedical research initiatives:[11]

Major Overseas Programmes

Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative

Also known as SDDI, this five year initiative started in October 2005 with the remit "to facilitate the development of drug-like small molecules that address unmet medical needs." SDDI was based in London and managed by Richard Davis.[14] Through early 2010, SDDI had provided more than £80 million across 30 projects split between academic institutions and companies.[14] To early 2010, all but one of the company recipients were either start-ups or spin-outs.[14] In May 2010, an additional £110 million was added to the SDDI fund with the intent to extend the initiative for an additional 5 years.[15]

Support for Open Access and Open Data

The Wellcome Trust plays an important role in encouraging publication of research in open access repositories[16] such as Europe PubMed Central (EuropePMC). The Wellcome Trust believes that maximising the distribution of these papers - by providing free, online access - is the most effective way of ensuring that the research can be accessed, read and built upon. In turn, this will foster a richer research culture.

In 2016, the Wellcome Trust partnered with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to launch the Open Science Prize[17] to "help develop services, tools and platforms that enable open content to be discovered, assessed and re-used in ways that will advance discovery and spark innovation."[17]

In 2016, Wellcome Trust announced that it would be launching Wellcome Open Research,[18] an open access publication system running on the F1000 Research platform.[19] Article Processing Charges will be covered directly by Wellcome Trust. Paper from the system are now indexed in PubMed Central.[20]

Membership in the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT)

In the summer of 2015, the Wellcome Trust joined the Japanese government, 7 Japanese pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Development Program as funding partner of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT), which funds scientific research and development for anti-infectives and diagnostics for diseases that primarily affect the developing world.[21][22]

Public engagement and the Wellcome Collection

In June 2007, the Wellcome Building reopened after refurbishment as a public venue, housing the Wellcome Collection, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London and the Wellcome Library.[23] The aim of the Wellcome Collection is to enhance public understanding of medical science and history. The building contains gallery spaces, conference facilities, space for debates, drama and workshops, a café and a bookshop. The galleries show a small sample of works from Sir Henry Wellcome's collection, and host a programme of events and exhibitions. The Wellcome Collection and exhibitions are open to the public free of charge six days a week.[24]

The Wellcome Collection and Wellcome Library are members of The London Museums of Health & Medicine.

Wellcome Book Prize

The Wellcome Trust sponsors an annual book prize, the Wellcome Book Prize, which "aims to excite public interest and encourage debate" around medicine and health.[25]

Wellcome Global Monitor

In June 2019, Wellcome released the results of the 2018 global survey on public attitudes toward science and health. Topics include trust of scientists, doctors, and nurses; religion and science, and vaccines, among others.[26] It was Wellcome's first Global Monitor and was intended to "provide robust evidence on how public attitudes vary across different demographic groups and countries."[27]


Purchase of the Co-operative Farms business

In August 2014, the Wellcome Trust bought the Co-operative Group's farm business (renamed Farmcare) for £249 million. This comprised "15,997 hectares (39,533 acres) of freehold and third party owned land, 15 farms, including three pack houses, over 100 residential properties, and 27 commercial properties."[28]


The Wellcome Trust's operations are run from two buildings on Euston Road in London. The Wellcome Building, at 183 Euston Road, built in 1932 in Portland stone houses the Wellcome Collection and the adjoining glass and steel building at 215 Euston Road is the Gibbs Building, by Hopkins Architects, which opened in 2004 as the administrative headquarters of the Wellcome Trust.

See also


  1. "Eliza Manningham-Buller to be next Chair of the Wellcome Trust".
  2. Van Noorden, Richard (2013). "Clinician to head Wellcome Trust: Jeremy Farrar to lead one of world's largest research charities". Nature. 497 (7447): 19. Bibcode:2013Natur.497...19V. doi:10.1038/497019a. PMID 23636375.
  3. "Wellcome Trust aims to increase spend to £5 billion over next 5 years".
  4. "Value of Wellcome's investments passes £25 billion". Wellcome Trust. 2018.
  5. "Charity Commission factsheet for the Wellcome Trust". Charity Commission for England and Wales. 17 December 2015.
  6. Andrew Jack (10 April 2012). "Wellcome challenges science journals". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 April 2012. (registration required)
  7. "History of Henry Wellcome".
  8. Hall, A. R. & Bembridge, B. A. Physic and philanthropy: a history of the Wellcome Trust 19361986. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-521-32639-7
  9. briandeer.com Sunday Times investigation, February 1994]
  10. "Henry Wellcome's legacy". Wellcome.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  11. "Biomedical science funded projects".
  12. "MRC Centre United Kingdom: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute". Medical Research Council. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  13. "Kenya and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme".
  14. "A Wellcome experiment in seeding drug discovery". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 9 (3): 178–180. March 2010. doi:10.1038/nrd3130. PMID 20190777.(subscription required)
  15. "Wellcome Trust extends Seeding Drug Discovery initiative". TMRM. AngelNews. 14 May 2010. Archived from the original on 14 January 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  16. "Wellcome Trust position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research".
  17. "The Open Science Prize".
  18. "Wellcome Open Research provides all Wellcome researchers with a place to rapidly publish any results they think are worth sharing". wellcomeopenresearch.org. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  19. "Wellcome Open Research is now accepting submissions". Discussions – F1000 Research. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  20. "Archive of "Wellcome Open Research"". www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  21. “Japan in pioneering partnership to fund global health research”, by Andrew Jack, Financial Times, May 30, 2013
  22. “Japanese Global Health Fund Welcomes the Wellcome Trust and Sysmex Corporation as New Funders and ANA, Morrison & Foerster, and Yahoo! Japan as New Sponsors”, PR Newswire, June 3, 2015, <http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/japanese-global-health-fund-welcomes-the-wellcome-trust-and-sysmex-corporation-as-new-funders-and-ana-morrison--foerster-and-yahoo-japan-as-new-sponsors-300093066.html>, accessed on 9/28/2015
  23. "The Wellcome Library".
  24. "Wellcome Collection opening hours".
  25. "About the Wellcome Book Prize | Wellcome Book Prize". wellcomebookprize.org. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  26. Branch, Glenn (2019). "Welcome News on Global Attitudes toward Science and Health from Wellcome". Skeptical Inquirer. 43 (5): 8–9.
  27. "Wellcome Global Monitor". Wellcome. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  28. "Wellcome Trust acquires the Co-operative Group's farms business". Wellcome.ac.uk. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
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