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The Wellcome Trust is a United Kingdom-based charity established in 1936 to administer the fortune of the American-born pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome. Its income was derived from what was originally called Burroughs Wellcome & Co, later renamed in the UK, somewhat confusingly, as the Wellcome Foundation Ltd (Wellcome plc).
The Trust is the world's richest medical charity, with net assets at 30 September 2005 of over £11.6 billion ($22.6 billion). The Trust states its mission as being "to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health." In addition to funding biomedical research, it supports the public understanding of science.
In 1986, the trust sold 25% of Wellcome plc stock to the public, beginning a process of separating itself from the pharmaceutical industry. In 1995, following controversy, the Trust divested itself of any interest in pharmaceuticals by selling all remaining stock to Glaxo plc, the company's historic British rival, creating GlaxoWellcome plc. The cash windfall generated by this merger has shaped many of the Trust's recent developments. In 2000, the Wellcome name disappeared from the drug business when GlaxoWellcome merged with yet another British firm, SmithKline Beecham, to form GlaxoSmithKline plc.
The Wellcome Trust invests more than £400 million per annum in biomedical research. Most of this goes to support research that adds to our understanding of health and disease but has no immediate application. Medical benefits may emerge years later. Many major successes have been achieved through Wellcome Trust funding, including:
- Sequencing of the human genome at the Sanger Institute
- Development of the antimalarial drug artemisinin
- Pioneering cognitive behavioural therapies for psychological disorders
- Establishing the UK Biobank
- Building of the Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum
The Trust's headquarters are on Euston Road in London. The original building built in 1932 in Portland stone has an impressive interior. Next door is the new building by Michael Hopkins, opened in 2004.
The Wellcome Trust established the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in the US.
In October 2005 the Trust was the first large research funding charity to condition funding of research projects to the publication of results in open access repositories.
Libraries and public facilities
In 2007 the old building will reopen after refurbishment as a public venue called 183 Euston Road. This is intended to provide comprehensive resources to enhance public understanding of current thinking in medical science, as well as the history of medicine. The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine will be housed on the upper two floors.
The Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine has very large collections of books, manuscripts, pictures and films concerning the meaning and history of medicine. It is one of the world's foremost collections on these subjects and is open to the public without charge. Two other collections associated with The Wellcome Library are the Medical Photographic Library and the Medical Film and Audio Collections. These collections are currently housed in temporary premises on the other side of Euston Road, but will move into 183 Euston Road when it reopens.
183 Euston Road will also contain gallery spaces, conference facilities, space for debates, drama and workshops, a café and a bookshop. The Wellcome Trust stages a programme of temporary exhibitions both at its own premises and at the Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum.
- The Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology is located at the Royal College of Surgeons.
- List of wealthiest foundations
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute - the world's second wealthiest medical research charity
- Hall, A.R. & Bembridge, B.A. Physic and philanthropy: a history of the Wellcome Trust 1936-1986. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-521-32639-7
- Open Access a Must for Wellcome Trust Researchers, press release by Wellcome Trust
- Wellcome Trust website
- Trust position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research
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