The Wellcome Trust was established in 1936 as an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. With an endowment of around £15 billion, it is the United Kingdom's largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research. On 5 February 2008 the Wellcome Trust committed to increasing its funding for research and large scale biomedical projects to almost £4 billion over the next five years. The overall mission of the trust is "to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health", and in addition to funding biomedical research it supports the public understanding of science.
The trust was established to administer the fortune of the American-born pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome
. Its income was derived from what was originally called Burroughs Wellcome
, later renamed in the UK as the Wellcome Foundation Ltd. In 1986, the trust sold 25% of Wellcome plc stock to the public, beginning a process of separating itself from the pharmaceutical industry. 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. The windfall generated by this merger has shaped the trust's subsequent philanthropic activities. In 2000, the Wellcome name disappeared from the drug business when GlaxoWellcome merged with SmithKline Beecham, to form GlaxoSmithKline
The Wellcome Trust invests over £600 million per annum in biomedical research. Much of this goes to support research that adds to our understanding of health and disease but may have no immediate application - medical benefits may emerge years later. However, a significant proportion of funding is also invested in technology transfer so that innovations are translated into new health products.
Funds from the Wellcome Trust have supported several important recent projects:
In addition, the Wellcome Trust has an international research programme carrying out vital research on malaria and other diseases that cause high levels of mortality in Kenya, Malawi, Thailand, Vietnam and South Africa.
The Wellcome Trust has also played an important role in encouraging publication of research in open access repositories. 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.
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 UCL
and the Wellcome Library
. 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 Library houses one of the world's foremost collections of books, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures on the history of medicine from the earliest times to the present day.
The Wellcome Collection and exhibitions are open to the public free of charge six days a week.
The Wellcome Trust has two buildings on Euston Road
. 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.