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Wellcome Trust makes £16 billion spending pledge as Covid becomes endemic

The Wellcome Trust will increase research spending by £16 billion over the next 10 years as the UK’s biggest charity funder focuses funding on second and third generation vaccines while the world prepares. for Covid-19 to become an epidemic.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome and former Sage member, said he believes there will be another coronavirus variant by 2022 after Omicron, adding that the country should not be complacent in that future. virus strain will be less severe.

He added that the UK needed to prepare for Covid-19 to move from pandemic to pandemic, adding that the virus was “a gift for life, not for Christmas”.

Farrar stressed the UK’s need to work on next-generation vaccines and suggested that the rest of the world would require access to existing shots this spring to reduce the risk of contagion. new variations.

He said the chances of a variant completely escaping the vaccine-provided immunity and contagion naturally were small but added: “It’s our responsibility to make sure that we develop the second and third generation vaccines. So if that happens next year, or tomorrow, or in five years’ time, we’re not going back to January 2020.”

The spread of Omicron was peaked in LondonSaid Farrar, who left Sage, the government’s pandemic science advisory group, in October to focus on leading his organization.

But the rest of the country is weeks behind, he added, and the full impact of the Omicron wave will not be felt on the health service until transmission begins to appear more widely. in older age groups after the Christmas period.

Wellcome will focus some of its new funding on second and third-generation vaccines, he said, along with a range of initiatives designed to detect and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. other viruses, such as through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global partnership designed to develop vaccines to prevent future outbreaks.

Wellcome has spent more than £9 billion over the past decade supporting scientists, programs and organizations in the fields of science and healthcare, including £1.2 billion last year.

Farrar said the success of Wellcome’s investment strategy has allowed the trust to increase charitable spending by £16 billion over the next 10 years. It also plans to respond to global challenges such as climate change and its impact on health and mental health.

“It was a big, big development from what we did [previously]. [But] instead of spreading ourselves thinner, we will be more focused, and we will be more global.”

Wellcome had its most successful fiscal year in 2021 since the trust publicly sold its last remaining stake to Glaxo Plc in 1995 to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome, with 35% profit.

The total amount of the trust grew from £8.4 billion to £36.2 billion last year, with strong results from holdings in private companies, including DoorDash, a delivery platform. American food and private equity funds.

But Nick Moakes, Wellcome’s chief investment officer, warned that this year will be the hardest from an investor’s point of view because of the financial crisis fueled by rising inflation – and the possibility of rate hikes – and the end of the year. end of the stimulus Covid.

Moakes predicts a “much tougher environment” for investors.

“We are seeing a pretty strong rise in bond yields. Rates will start to go up, obviously they’ve got a little bit in the UK, but they’re going to go up a lot more,” he said. Farrar also warned of tax increases at a time when costs, such as energy bills, are “spiking”.

“We will get to the point where there will be no more QE in the US and UK. And there may even be quantitative tightening.”

Wellcome will invest more in inflation-hedging physical assets, such as properties, as well as in private equity and opportunistic deals caused by the pandemic, he said.

He said inflation was “a political potato for the first time in over a decade”, adding: “These are tough decisions to make.”

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