21.03.2012 - The British Wellcome Trust announced on 20 March that it will launch a £200m business to invest directly in healthcare and life sciences companies. The business, up to now running under its working title Project Sigma, will draw its initial capital from the trust’s endowment.
„Although Sigma has the primary goal of generating excellent returns for the Wellcome Trust, its investments will also provide emerging businesses in the healthcare sector with a valuable new source of funding and guidance“, the Wellcome Trust stated. In recent years, the charity, which hands out £600 million in research grants every year and has a £14 billion endowment, has substantially increased its private equity holdings. On 30 September 2011 it has invested £2.7bn in venture capital firms. The trust has recruited Martin Murphy, previously a partner at venture capital firm MVM Life Science Partners, as Sigma’s chief executive and Oxford Instruments and Deltex Medical chairman Nigel Keen to chair Sigma’s board. As everywhere, British biotech start-ups are struggling to find new funding, and venture capital players have been called conservative in their investments in drug developers in recent years. Therefore, new funding mechanisms are met with cheers. Glyn Edwards, interim chief executive at the BioIndustry Association trade body, expects a significant boost to companies developing new medicines: „It is especially pleasing to see that the fund will take a long term view and provide companies with the support they need to reach their full potential.”
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