New Capital, Pre-clinical

Help wanted: CEO needed to run a new $330M fund in search of breakthrough biotech ideas

Right now, seasoned biotech teams with good connections and a solid development plan for risky but commercially promising drugs are operating in a world with rapidly rising levels of cash chasing a limited number of top prospects. But the Wellcome Trust still sees a critical lack of seed funding for bright, preclinical ideas on the sidelines.

Jeremy Farrar

And they aim to fill part of it with a new $330 million fund that can be selectively brilliant.

Their Leap Fund is looking to identify projects inside and outside of academia that need some money to check out promising therapeutic leads. Going early, the goal is to find a few that can go on to become breakthroughs in 5 to 10 years.

Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar put it this way in a blog post:

This gradual building of the knowledge base lays a critical foundation for moving science ahead. But science also advances in unexpected ways, driven by discoveries that come out of left field and lead to a sudden leap forward. We want to take advantage of the surprising, left-field ideas that pose the question “what if?” and support them in a new way that complements our existing funding structures.

Farrar — who’s looking for a CEO to run the project— doesn’t expect everything to succeed. That never happens in biotech funds. But after seeing breakthroughs in Ebola vaccines and cell imaging and more, he is confident that this is the kind of fund that can make a difference.

The Wellcome Trust has been pumping cash into a broad range of UK biopharma, offering a vital source of research support in the country. This new fund is in addition to their £900 million annual investment in the field. Noted Farrar:

We hope that by 2030, the Leap Fund will have produced a small number of breakthroughs on a vastly accelerated timescale. These may open up entirely new areas of research, allow new scientific questions to be answered, change existing practice within a field or deliver transformative health benefits.


Image: Wellcome Trust. SHUTTERSTOCK


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