Wellcome Trust gambles on biotech startups with new £200M fund

The U.K.'s largest charity has already begun to pour some serious pounds into biotech startups. The Wellcome Trust has organized its efforts under a new venture unit called Syncona to back early-stage outfits in biotech and other healthcare sectors with an initial £200 million ($325 million) fund.

Importantly, Syncona offers a new source of funds for life sciences startups as many traditional venture firms bail on risky bets on newly hatched biotechs. According to Wellcome's annual report last month, Syncona has already made one investment. And Bloomberg notes that startups can expect from £1 million to £20 million in support as Syncona portfolio companies.

Wellcome, which primarily makes research grants, has entered a growing league of deep-pocketed organizations and pharma companies that have set up venture units in recent years. The dearth of early-stage funding threatens the biotech ecosystem that produces new drugs and technologies, and the rise of corporate venture capital has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise morbid era of VC investment in the industry.

"We expect to play our part in building successful businesses based upon innovation within the life science and health-care industry," Syncona CEO Martin Murphy stated, as quoted by Bloomberg

Murphy, a former partner at MVM Life Science Partners, was noted as the head of Wellcome's venture unit last March when the new operation was revealed with the mysterious moniker Project Sigma. Wellcome, which follows only the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation among health charities, aims to make some returns from the VC effort.

Wellcome manages a portfolio of £14.5 billion, according to its annual report published in December, with a portion of its investment returns allocated to fund research around the world.

- check out Bloomberg's article

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