The Board of Governors of the Wellcome Trust has approved the creation of a new business that will invest in emerging businesses and technologies in the healthcare and life sciences sectors.
The business's initial capital will be £200 million, drawn from the Wellcome Trust's endowment. The business is currently operating under the working title Project Sigma, and a name and brand identity will be announced shortly.
Sigma will be a directly owned and managed business that will seek to deliver attractive returns on the capital it invests. It will provide financial resources with which to advance the Wellcome Trust's vision of achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health by supporting the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities.
In recent years, the Trust has substantially increased its private equity holdings, in partnership with some of the world's best venture investors. The Trust is fully committed to these partnerships. Sigma will give the Wellcome Trust an additional opportunity to identify and invest in promising healthcare businesses, which will typically be at an early stage in their development with significant potential to grow.
Sigma will enable the Trust to take and retain ownership positions in these companies. It will be able to contribute proactively to their development over the long term, for example by bringing together complementary expertise from different companies and scientific fields.
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. This will help them to turn exciting advances in the life sciences into diagnostics and therapies that contribute to improved patient care.
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The Wellcome Trust is known as an investor that takes a long-term view. Sigma will extend this successful approach to direct investments in emerging healthcare technologies, to give small and medium-sized companies the support they require to fulfil their potential.
"This important investment opportunity will help the Trust to fulfil its vision of achieving extraordinary improvements in health, by generating returns that can be used to fund the work of outstanding researchers in the biomedical sciences and the medical humanities."
The Wellcome Trust is pleased to announce the appointment of Nigel Keen as Chairman of Sigma and Martin Murphy as Chief Executive Officer. We are in the final stages of closing the necessary agreements for operation of the Sigma business.
Nigel Keen's career has encompassed both venture capital and industry. He is the chairman of a number of high-growth publicly listed technology companies in the healthcare and electronics industries, including Oxford Instruments, Laird, Bioquell and the AIM-listed company Deltex Medical, of which he was the founder and remains the largest private shareholder. After taking his degree in Engineering at Cambridge, Nigel Keen qualified as a chartered accountant with Deloittes.
Martin Murphy was previously a Partner at MVM Life Science Partners LLP, a leading venture capital company focused on life science and healthcare investments. During his time at MVM, Martin led MVM's European operations and was responsible for several successful investments, including PregLem SA, Healthcare Brands International and Heptares Therapeutics Ltd. Before MVM, Martin had roles with 3i Group plc and McKinsey & Company. Martin has a PhD in Molecular Biology from Cambridge University.