Innovations Flagships

Innovations Flagships support the development of exciting new products, technologies and other interventions to prevent or treat disease.

Our approach

One of the main ideas in our strategy, Innovation for Impact [PDF 200KB], is to identify a small number of health innovation challenges where we think a concerted effort could result in major, tangible improvements to people's health.

Our key approach is to build a series of linked activities, which we call Flagships. Flagships are not a fund, funding scheme or grant – they reflect an explicit commitment to a portfolio approach. By developing a linked portfolio, we’ll support a variety of approaches that together mitigate the risks associated with the innovation pathway and improve the chances of achieving our goals.   

So far, we’ve identified four Flagships where there is particularly high need and where we think we can make a particular difference. 

We want to work with partners who share our commitment and can help us to realise the ambition of each Flagship.

Focus of our Flagships

Hub for innovative technologies for neglected tropical diseases

Vision: for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) to be at the forefront of technological innovation in drug research and development. 

20% of the world's population, many of whom are living in extreme poverty, are affected by NTDs. Emerging technologies can offer unparalleled opportunities to improve NTD novel therapeutics and streamline drug research and development.  However innovative drug discovery tools tend to be created for other diseases and only applied to NTD research later – meaning that neglected populations often have delayed access to new medicines.

This Flagship will drive the invention, adoption and exploitation of cutting-edge technologies to generate novel and improved drugs for NTDs. It will serve as a hub to attract innovators and new talent from cross-disciplines, and will build a virtual network of partners from not-for-profit and for-profit sectors. The technologies developed could have a significant impact on the generation of safe and effective new treatments for NTDs and other indications.   

We’re building our Flagship in the following areas:

  • supporting emerging technologies from any discipline that have broad applicability, including platforms that can improve and accelerate drug research and development in NTDs. Examples include: 
    • artificial intelligence
    • drug delivery technologies
    • genomics/proteomics
    • automation materials
    • new reaction technologies
  • creating a linked portfolio of drug research and development for leishmaniasis, chagas disease and one or two other NTDs, including the development and deployment of emerging technologies.

Find out more about one of the projects we're supporting under this Flagship – the development of a new oral treatment for leishmaniasis.

Improved outcomes for people with psychosis

Vision: to reduce the global burden of psychosis by:

  • improving diagnosis
  • maximising the impact of early treatment
  • developing novel, targeted interventions. 

Primary psychosis generally manifests in early adulthood, and has a crude incidence in the general population of 16.9 per 100,000 person-years. But many more individuals demonstrate subthreshold psychotic symptoms that can last from a few days to 18 months. A subset of these clinical high-risk individuals transition to psychosis but currently there is no way to identify them.

Early diagnosis and treatment has the potential to reduce the decline in functional and social outcomes associated with untreated psychosis. There is a significant unmet need for novel therapeutic interventions (pharmaceutical, psychological and digital). The development of digital technologies and interventions also has the potential to transform patient outcomes in low-resource settings. 

We’re building our Flagship in the following areas:

  • stratification of patients to:
    • identify those who are clinical high-risk and susceptible to transitioning to psychosis
    • make sure appropriate treatment is provided early in the development of the disease 
  • applying novel digital technologies to monitor disease progression
  • developing novel interventions to address unmet global need. 

Innovation in low- and middle-income countries 

Vision: to reduce morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by building partnerships and networks to help speed up the development and implementation of healthcare innovations.

People living in low-resource settings in LMICs are some of the most poorly served in terms of healthcare provision. High rates of death, sickness and economic hardship caused by infectious disease are putting pressures on health systems and populations which are already under strain with the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.

In the absence of commercial ‘pull’ that would usually drive innovation in resource-rich settings, we want to develop translational networks and innovations in LMICs. This will allow us to quickly and effectively test, develop and scale new approaches that can change medical practice. 

We’re building our Flagship in the following areas:

  • triage and diagnosis of non-malarial fever – particularly in rural communities
  • mobile health approaches to guiding diagnosis
  • monitoring and interventional approaches suitable to LMIC-based critical care. 

Innovation to prevent enteric disease 

Vision: to reduce the burden of enteric disease by accelerating the development and implementation of affordable technologies and interventions.

Morbidity and mortality caused by enteric disease disproportionately affects the world’s poorest populations. Diarrhoeal disease remains the second leading cause of child death worldwide, killing 500,000 children under five every year and causing the hospitalisation of millions. Enteric disease takes a huge toll on affected families’ income, making it harder for them to escape from poverty. 

The rise of antimicrobial resistance has significantly complicated the treatment of several enteric diseases and repeated illness often leads to childhood malnutrition and stunted growth. Preventative interventions have the potential to eliminate these complications and greatly improve health in populations where disease is endemic.

Our initial focus for this Flagship will be on shigella, typhoid/paratyphoid, non-typhoid salmonella and cholera.

We’re building our Flagship in the following areas:

  • supporting pre-clinical and clinical translational research for new vaccine development
  • looking at how technologies can aid vaccine development, manufacture and delivery
  • removing barriers to patient access by identifying and addressing gaps in vaccine manufacture, the regulatory pathway and policy frameworks
  • exploring the affordability of monoclonal antibodies and their potential role in enteric disease prevention. 

How to work with us

If you’re interested in developing a partnership with us, you can contact us with more information about your idea (maximum two pages).

You should include:  

  • a summary of your idea
  • how your idea supports the vision of the Flagship
  • the potential impact you could make in the first five years
  • what you or your organisation can bring to a partnership with Wellcome.  

Send this information to innovations@wellcome.ac.uk. The information you send should be non-confidential. 

For practical reasons, we’ll only be able to respond if there’s a clear fit with our portfolio. If that’s the case, we’ll come back to you to explore the opportunity further.  

More information