Press Release

Wellcome Leap announces breakthrough in funded project at Caltech: points to new all-in-one vaccine for SARS-like betacoronaviruses – Phase I clinical trials initiated by CEPI.

July 5, 2022

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Image courtesy of Wellcome Leap, Caltech, and Merkin Institute. 
© 2022. All rights reserved.

Los Angeles – July 5, 2022: Wellcome Leap, a U.S. based non-profit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate and increase the number of breakthroughs in global health, today announced a significant advance by researchers in the Bjorkman lab at Caltech. The study demonstrates broad immune responses in non-human primates against a spectrum of SARS-like betacoronaviruses when immunized with a new nanoparticle-based vaccine, named mosaic-8.
The key to this advance is the specific construct of the vaccine, which aims to elicit an immune response to the parts of the viral spike that do not change between variants or between animal SARS-like betacoronaviruses strains – a so-called ‘conserved’ part of the spike.
This advance suggests that it may be possible to be vaccinated against animal viruses that could spill over to infect humans to cause another pandemic and also against SARS-CoV-2 variants before they even exist. The core nanoparticle technology was initially developed by collaborators at the University of Oxford and has been further optimized to achieve broad protection in the Bjorkman lab in this study.
The current work builds on earlier Bjorkman lab experiments, supported by Caltech’s Merkin Institute for Translational Research, that demonstrated broad immune responses in mice against SARS-like betacoronaviruses (Cohen et al, 2021). The new study, sponsored by Wellcome Leap, established protection from a SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant challenge in non-human primates (representing protection for a ‘mismatched’ variant since the SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant was presented in the mosaic-8 construct, but the Delta variant was not). Importantly, as published today in Science, the vaccine also showed protection from SARS-CoV, a different strain of betacoronavirus, which was also not presented in the mosaic-8 nanoparticle, thereby demonstrating the potential to provide protection against an as-yet-unknown SARS-like betacoronavirus that could spill over into humans. Wellcome Leap’s agile funding model provided the pivotal support needed to achieve these milestones and, importantly, to maintain the scientific momentum catalyzed by Merkin’s funding of the Bjorkman lab.

“We couldn’t have done this research this quickly without Wellcome Leap. Period,” Dr. Pamela Bjorkman said. “Leap approached us at a critical juncture of our research and provided us with the funding to allow us to expand into testing in non-human primates. They also helped us clear obstacles and build effective collaborations. I estimate they reduced our timeline from two years to six months, which in lab timelines is unheard of. I am incredibly proud of the work the team did on this and we are looking forward to phase I clinical trials to evaluate our vaccine candidate, which will be funded by CEPI.”

Image courtesy of Wellcome Leap, Caltech, and Merkin Institute. 
© 2022. All rights reserved.

With animals showing little to no detectable infection when exposed to either ‘matched’ or ‘unmatched’ SARS-like strains, this nanoparticle development has the potential to mitigate viral infection caused by known and future variants of the class of virus that caused the current global pandemic, but also to mitigate potential pandemics caused by future viral spill overs within the SARS-like betacoronavirus family.
“This outcome demonstrates the priority we put on stacking the odds in favor of a breakthrough – we believe that we can accelerate and increase the number of breakthroughs if we work with speed, agility, and global collaboration,” said Dr. Regina E. Dugan, CEO of Wellcome Leap. “By matching the high potential of the research with a high sense of urgency, we may now be in a better position on pandemic prevention.”
As a result of these findings, the Bjorkman lab has formed a consortium led by UK deep tech innovation organization CPI and secured up to $30 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for Phase 1 clinical trials of the mosaic-8 vaccine. The overall acceleration has the potential to condense the path to full-scale production by three to four years.

“We have talked about the need for diversity in vaccine development since the very beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Richard J. Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “The breakthrough exhibited in the Bjorkman lab study demonstrates huge potential for a strategy that pursues a new vaccine platform altogether, potentially overcoming hurdles created by new variants. I am delighted to announce that CEPI will be supporting this novel approach to pandemic prevention in Phase I clinical trials.
The accelerated speed the study achieved after receiving Wellcome Leap funding facilitated our relationship with them today. The non-human primate data is extremely encouraging and we’re excited to support the next phase of trials.”

This announcement comes two months after Wellcome Leap announced an additional $335M in new funding, with the organization now having over half a billion dollars at work. All Wellcome Leap programs aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years and demonstrate seemingly impossible results on seemingly impossible timelines. Complementary to the five programs in action, the Wellcome Leap Program Seedling budget is used to support projects that demonstrate high breakthrough potential or could become programs in and of themselves. 

About Wellcome Leap

Wellcome Leap builds and executes bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. Programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2020 as a US nonprofit with initial funding of $300 million, Leap programs target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions. Operating at the intersection of life sciences and engineering, Leap programs require best-in-class, multi-disciplinary, global teams assembled from universities, companies, and nonprofits working together to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.
With an additional $335 million in funding from the Wellcome Trust, the organization now has over half a billion dollars at work.
For more information on Wellcome Leap, please visit www.wellcomeleap.org or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the Merkin Institute

Caltech’s Merkin Institute for Translational Research provided some of the initial funding to develop the mosaic-8 nanoparticles.

About CEPI

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines against future epidemics. Prior to COVID-19, CEPI’s work focused on developing vaccines against Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus and Chikungunya virus – it has over 20 vaccine candidates against these pathogens in development. CEPI has also invested in new platform technologies for rapid vaccine development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).
During the current pandemic, CEPI initiated multiple programmes to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants with a focus on speed, scale and access. These programmes leverage the rapid response platforms developed by CEPI’s partners prior to the emergence of COVID-19 as well as new collaborations. The aim is to advance clinical development of a diverse portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 candidates and to enable fair allocation to these vaccines worldwide through COVAX.
CEPI’s 5-year plan lays out a $3.5 billion roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days, develop a universal vaccine against COVID-19 and other Betacoronaviruses, and create a “library” of vaccine candidates for use against known and unknown pathogens. The plan is available at https://endpandemics.cepi.net.
Follow our news page for the latest updates. Follow us via @CEPIvaccines, @DrRHatchett, and LinkedIn.

About CPI

CPI takes great ideas and inventions and makes them a reality. Born in the North East of England in 2004, CPI is an independent deep tech innovation organisation and a founding member of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
CPI’s team of intelligent people use advances in science and technology to solve the biggest global challenges in healthcare and sustainability. Through incredible people and innovation infrastructure, CPI collaborates with partners in industry, academia, government, and the investment community to accelerate the development and commercialisation of innovative products.
CPI’s work ranges from health technologies, advanced drug delivery systems, and medicines manufacturing innovations for multiple modalities including small molecules, biologics, and nucleic acids; to developing sustainable materials for energy storage and packaging, as well as novel food, feed, and nutraceuticals, that are all underpinned by digital technology. CPI turns the entrepreneurial spirit and radical thinking of its people and partners into incredible impact that makes our world a better place.

Let’s innovate together: uk-cpi.com
Connect with us: LinkedIn Twitter Instagram Facebook

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Kidney Tissue

Wellcome Leap announces over $300M in additional funding.
Now more than Half a Billion Dollars for catalyzing breakthroughs in human health.

February 2, 2022

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Image shows kidney tissue constructed from organoid building blocks by Jennifer Lewis (Harvard) and Ryuji Morizane (MGH) labs. The ultimate goal is to create tissues that can restore sufficient function to free patients from dialysis.
Los Angeles – Feb. 2, 2022: Wellcome Leap (Leap), a U.S. based non-profit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate breakthroughs for global health, has today announced an additional $335M in new funding. Combined with the $300M allocated at launch, the organization will have well over half a billion dollars at work.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought human health and the threat of disease into a focus not seen in modern history. In one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of our generation, mRNA technology has demonstrated the ability to change the timeline for developing and delivering a new vaccine from years to months. And the entire world was witness to that demonstration.

“The last 2 years have laid bare how much work we have to do in health, equity, and care for the planet. They have also revealed the difference a breakthrough makes,” said CEO, Dr. Regina E. Dugan. “We need more breakthroughs to solve the urgent challenges facing the world. And we need them faster.”

The Wellcome Trust recently announced its biggest funding commitment to science and health in its 85-year history. It plans to raise charitable spending to £16 billion (over $21.5 billion) over the next decade to fund science that supports a healthy future for everyone. It has also committed an extra £750 million (over $1 billion) to fund large-scale, high-impact activities across five years, which they anticipate will grow to £1 billion next year.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome said: “Support for long-term, basic science is vital. We founded Wellcome Leap because we also need to ensure that somewhere in the system there is a truly disruptive element that can take bigger risks, challenge the consensus point of view, and work globally to find the best talent and ideas to push forward. We expect to allocate about 5% of our funding into the future to Wellcome Leap as a complement to our other investments. Since its inception, Wellcome Leap has hit the ground running with ambitious programs that seek to deliver transformative results from mRNA production to mental health and physiology. Bold initiatives like these are key to maintaining the momentum of the last two years. We couldn’t be more delighted, or impressed, with the work to date.”

Jay Flatley, Chair of Wellcome Leap, said “What Wellcome Leap has achieved in less than two years has exceeded all our expectations and is on par with the best execution I’ve seen in any commercial setting. The assembly of this unicorn leadership team is one of Wellcome Leap’s most important accomplishments – they are inspiring, outcome focused, and uniquely qualified to take on the challenge.”

All Wellcome Leap programs aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years and demonstrate seemingly impossible results on seemingly impossible timelines. To do so, programs have ambitious goals that are also testable and measurable – the setting of the bar for a program is among the hardest things we do. It requires Program Directors who are scientifically accomplished and who dare to ask ‘what if?’ They formulate the program and serve as conductors of a global, dynamic network of performers working together to solve problems they cannot solve alone.

But an ambitious goal is not enough. We have to change the boundary conditions of the work itself. Wellcome Leap is optimized for breakthroughs – this requires speed, agility, and changes across all dimensions of operation, selection, and execution to systematically increase the probability of success.

Wellcome Leap has funded 5 programs that aim to create 10X improvements in three dimensions: increase understanding of human health and disease, transform economics, and increase the speed, scale and equity of access. All programs are focused on achieving tangible gains that demonstrate at convincing scale the ability to overcome some of the most challenging threats to human health from depression, brain development, and infectious diseases to the platforms needed to transform drug development, production, and access.

About Wellcome Leap Wellcome Leap builds and executes bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. Programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2020 as a US nonprofit with initial funding of $300 million, Leap programs target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions. Operating at the intersection of life sciences and engineering, Leap programs require best-in-class, multi-disciplinary, global teams assembled from universities, companies, and nonprofits working together to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.

With an additional $335 million in funding from the Wellcome Trust, the organization now has over half a billion dollars at work.

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Wellcome Leap Appoints
Ho Ching to Board of Directors
Wellcome Leap Appoints
Ho Ching to Board of Directors

March 18, 2021

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Los Angeles – March 18, 2021: Wellcome Leap (Leap), a U.S.-based non-profit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health, today announced the election of Ho Ching to its Board of Directors.

“We are pleased to welcome Ho Ching to Leap’s Board of Directors,” said Jay Flatley, Chairman of the Board. “Wellcome Leap is a global organization and Ms. Ho brings international business perspective and leadership to our efforts to create breakthroughs in human health.”

Ho Ching is Executive Director and CEO of Temasek Holdings, a global investment company headquartered in Singapore. Ms. Ho, who first joined Temasek Holdings in 2002, was appointed as CEO in 2004. Prior to joining Temasek, she started her career as an engineer and previously served as President and CEO of the Singapore Technologies Group from 1997 to 2001. From 1997 to 2002, she was the founding Chairman of Singapore Technologies Engineering.

“I am inspired by Leap’s mission to deliver breakthroughs in human health. They are asking the right questions, about how we can catalyse and support innovation for human health in a very purposeful way. The Covid-19 experience demonstrates clearly that when we connect the dots on multi-disciplinary, multi-national resources, and focus minds and capabilities to address specific global challenges, we can make a huge difference.” said Ho Ching.

Ms. Ho is a Distinguished Engineering Alumnus of the National University of Singapore, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore. She is a graduate of the University of Singapore and holds a master’s in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

About Wellcome Leap

Wellcome Leap builds and executes bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. Programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2020 as a US nonprofit with initial funding of $300 million, Leap programs target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions. Operating at the intersection of life sciences and engineering, Leap programs require best-in-class, multi-disciplinary, global teams assembled from universities, companies, and nonprofits working together to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.

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Wellcome Leap Establishes Global Network Dedicated to Accelerated Breakthroughs in Human Health

Charter group of 21 world-class institutions representing a network of over 150,000 researchers across six continents sign agreement that sets new bar for fast-paced research and development.

Charter group of 21 world-class institutions representing a network of
over 150,000 researchers across six continents sign agreement that sets new bar for fast-paced research and development.

Jan 28, 2021

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Los Angeles – Jan. 28, 2021: Wellcome Leap (Leap), a U.S.-based non-profit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health, today announced the first 21 participants in the Leap Health Breakthrough Network, a global group of leading academic and research institutions committed to solving the world’s most serious health challenges such as cancer and infectious diseases at record speed. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of tackling urgent, large-scale health challenges quickly and across disciplines, organizations, and borders. It’s imperative that good ideas are identified and funded quickly, and that researchers across many institutions can build solutions together. 

Currently it can take as long as a year to finalize a research funding agreement, and when collaboration is required, work frequently cannot begin until all parties are signed further prolonging the delay. What’s more, key components needed to catalyze innovation sometimes come from individual researchers or smaller institutions that are often left out of major research initiatives. Breakthroughs require momentum, and diverse capabilities, wherever they exist globally.

The Leap Health Breakthrough Network will help eliminate barriers to progress thanks to the first-of-its-kind Master Academic Research Funding Agreement (MARFA), which equitably addresses all terms and conditions, including IP, ownership, and publication. Once an organization signs the MARFA, any researcher or group will need to negotiate only the statement of work and cost before funds can be transmitted and work can begin. Often in days, shaving months or more off of development timelines. 

“Science and engineering should move at the pace of breakthroughs, not the pace of contracting,said Leap CEO Regina E. Dugan. “Wellcome Leap has removed traditional obstacles to build a network that can mobilize and synchronize to solve problems in human health faster than has ever been possible.”

Charter signatories for the network include: Agency for Science, Technology and Research; California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Francis Crick Institute; Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; National University of Singapore; University of Auckland; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California San Diego; University of Cape Town; University of Dundee; University of Pittsburgh; University of São Paulo; University of Southern California; Uppsala University; Vanderbilt University; Virginia Tech; Wellcome Sanger Institute; Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering; and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

“The world has just seen an unprecedented scientific advance the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine in 10 months,” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. “Wellcome Leap has catalyzed a first-ever global network that will help deliver, well beyond this pandemic, new breakthroughs along what would previously have been considered impossible timelines.”

Participants in the Leap Health Breakthrough Network as well as commercial partners will play an ongoing part in Leap’s work to build and execute bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. This includes efforts such as the $50 million Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) program, announced in late 2020. 

Ken Gabriel, COO of Leap, said: “The opportunities for health breakthroughs are rich at the intersection of life sciences and engineering. This network will efficiently bring together collaborators from across disciplines to drive and deliver advances in global health.”

Institutions interested in joining the Leap Health Breakthrough Network should send an email to: HBNet@wellcomeleap.org.

About Wellcome Leap

Wellcome Leap builds and executes bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. Programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2020 as a US nonprofit with initial funding of $300 million, Leap programs target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions. Operating at the intersection of life sciences and engineering, Leap programs require best-in-class, multi-disciplinary, global teams assembled from universities, companies, and nonprofits working together to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.

 

Quotes from Signatories

“There is a pressing need for scientists, engineers and innovators worldwide to work together as the world faces some of its biggest health challenges today. Wellcome Leap’s initiative to build and fund programmes targeting breakthroughs in human health is a much-needed opportunity for the international research community to collectively engage and advance scientific discovery, and catalyse health innovations. A*STAR is glad to be part of this global initiative alongside the National University of Singapore, and looks forward to contributing Singapore’s scientific capabilities towards accelerating progress for human health.”
Andy Hor, Deputy Chief Executive (Research) – Agency for Science, Technology and Research
“At Caltech, we welcome the opportunity to work with like-minded institutions that recognize the benefit of investing in high-risk, high-reward research, aiming to define new arenas of scientific discovery and technological impact.”

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President – Caltech

“Carnegie Mellon is excited to be a charter member of the Wellcome Leap program, bringing research expertise from across the university to unleash breakthrough knowledge and solutions for global healthcare. This cross-disciplinary, collaborative approach to research is the defining element of CMU’s ability to innovate and do work that matters.”

Michael McQuade, Vice President for Research – Carnegie Mellon University 

“The Crick is excited by the opportunity to engage in such a novel and ambitious funding initiative. The multidisciplinary, global teams that Leap will enable have the potential to drive transformational benefits for human health. We look forward to seeing the impact.”

Sam Barrell, Chief Operating Officer – Francis Crick Institute

“MIT is committed to solving difficult problems in healthcare and doing so with the spirit of collaboration–we affirm the value of a global, multi-disciplinary approach to accelerate breakthroughs in this space.”

Martin Schmidt, Provost – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“While the aim of biomedical research has not changed, the ways and means by which such research is conducted now draws in multiple partners and resources.  We applaud Wellcome Leap’s radical and innovative approach to funding use-inspired research, and look forward to partnering Leap along with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in pursuit of transformational solutions to the health challenges of our time.”

Yap Seng CHONG, Dean of Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine – National University of Singapore

“The University of Auckland is delighted to be one of the charter signatories to this programme. Response to challenges such as Covid provide a critical example of the value of speed of response and harnessing global reach in ideas and capability that MARFA will enable.”

James Metson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) – University of Auckland

“We are honored for UCLA to become a part of Wellcome Leap’s global network, collaborating with other leading research institutions to advance human health through DARPA-like initiatives.”

Gene Block, Chancellor – University of California, Los Angeles

“UC San Diego has a shared interest in accelerating human health breakthroughs by engineering new technologies and applying them in research. Partnering with Leap allows our renowned researchers opportunities to collaborate with global, multi-disciplinary teams to advance the frontiers of knowledge and disseminate transformational discoveries.”

Pradeep K. Khosla, Chancellor – University of California San Diego

“The University of Cape Town looks forward to working with our fellow MARFA signatories to unleash truly transformative solutions to global challenges.”

Sue Harrison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation – University of Cape Town

“Dundee is proud to be a charter signatory of LEAP and to realising the collaborative advantage of this incredible network to accelerating health breakthroughs and transform lives.”

Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor – University of Dundee

“The University of Pittsburgh is proud to play our part in this extraordinary opportunity. With our deep bench of health sciences innovators and bioengineering pioneers, Pitt can and will help fuel this ambitious global push to realize breakthroughs for society’s gain.” 

Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor – University of Pittsburgh

“Proud to join Wellcome Leap and alongside with important research institutions contribute to breakthroughs in science.”

Sylvio Canuto, Research Provost – University of São Paulo 

“USC is excited to play a role in this worldwide effort to bring teams from a wide range of disciplines together to accelerate advancements in human health. We believe partnerships between the public and private sectors will be key drivers to delivering breakthroughs on a global scale.

Carol L. Folt, President – University of Southern California

“Global health challenges must be addressed from many angles and perspectives. We are proud to take part in this urgent collaborative effort.”

Anders Hagfeldt, Vice-Chancellor – Uppsala University

“Today our society faces some of the greatest challenges ever known. But it is often these difficult moments that bring out the best in humanity. Vanderbilt’s research and scholarly mission has always been guided by a pursuit of excellence. We are pleased to join Wellcome Leap in a similar spirit of achieving breakthrough innovation through sustained commitment, intellectual rigor and a spirit of global collaboration across multiple disciplines and institutions.”

Daniel Diermeier, Chancellor – Vanderbilt University

“Virginia Tech and Wellcome Leap are aligned in taking on the most daunting challenges in human health and we are excited to be among the first universities with a research agreement that will facilitate our partnership in this ambitious effort.”

Tim Sands, President – Virginia Tech

“This is a fantastic and innovative initiative that offers huge potential. Global multi-disciplinary collaborations that accelerate science are at the heart of many of the Sanger Institute’s research efforts. We embrace such opportunities to stretch our imagination and explore new scientific possibilities at scale so that new discoveries can be made to support human health. This agreement and Leap are clearly a great way of strengthening and supporting this approach further.”

Martin Dougherty, Chief Operating Officer – Wellcome Sanger Institute

“The Wyss Center in Geneva is excited to be a member of the Leap community accelerating visionary science and technology.”

Mary Tolikas, CEO – Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering

Institutions interested in joining the Leap Health Breakthrough Network should send an email to: HBNet@wellcomeleap.org.

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Wellcome Leap Bolsters Leadership Team, Announces Former President & CEO of Draper Ken Gabriel as Chief Operating Officer

July 23rd, 2020

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Former CEO of Draper and Acting Director of DARPA to Lead Operations for ‘DARPA for Global Health’. 

Leap Establishes First Field Office in Boston.

LOS ANGELES, CA – July 23rd, 2020 – Wellcome Leap (“Leap”), an advanced projects non-profit founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global human health, today announced that former U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) acting director Kaigham ‘Ken’ Gabriel has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the organization.

Ken will lead operations at Leap as the organization undertakes bold, unconventional programs and funds them at scale.With initial funding of $300 million, Leap’s programs will target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions within a decade.

“Ken’s rare blend of experience across disciplines and sectors will be key to building Leap globally and delivering on our mission,” said Regina E. Dugan, CEO of Wellcome Leap. “He’s devoted to breakthrough innovation and I’m stoked to work with him.”

The team at Leap will work on accelerated timelines and optimize for agility. The strategy of building a “Special Forces” team with diverse capabilities was pioneered at DARPA and has led to a virtually uninterrupted 60-year track record of breakthroughs ranging from GPS and the internet to foundational technologies enabling mRNA vaccines. Leap will build no permanent labs, and program directors will be appointed for specific, discrete, time-bound projects.

“Leap is a unique opportunity to work at the intersection of engineering and life sciences and deliver critical medical and health innovations at a time when the world needs it most,” said Ken Gabriel. “I look forward to scaling Leap’s capacity and working on the frontlines of an organization that is poised to change the future of human health.” 

Ken was most recently President and CEO of The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, a non-profit engineering research and development laboratory dedicated to serving the national interest in applied research, engineering development, advanced technical education, and technology transfer. Prior to that, he served as deputy director of the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at Google. From 2009 to 2012, he was deputy director, and then acting director, of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Department of Defense.

Ken will begin at Leap immediately and stand up Leap’s first field office in Boston, Massachusetts. To learn more, visit www.wellcomeleap.org and follow Leap on Twitter at @WellcomeLeap.

About Wellcome Leap

Wellcome Leap (“Leap”) is an advanced projects non-profit founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health.With initial funding of $300 million, Leap will undertake bold, unconventional programs and fund them at scale. Programs will target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions within a decade. Leap will assemble and fund teams comprised of scientists and engineers drawn from universities, nonprofits, and the commercial sector. Leap was conceived by the Wellcome Trust with the ambition of exploring the boundaries of science for the benefit of human health.

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Wellcome Leap Announces Leadership Team With Former Darpa Director Regina E. Dugan as CEO and Long-time Illumina CEO Jay Flatley as Chairman of the Board

May 12, 2020

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Leap Seeded With $300 Million to Pursue Global Health Programs with a DARPA-Like Model, Aims to Achieve Breakthroughs Within a Decade.

LONDON, United Kingdom – May 12—Wellcome Leap (“Leap”), an advanced projects non-profit founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health, today announced former U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) director Regina E. Dugan has been appointed CEO and former Illumina CEO Jay Flatley has been appointed Chair.

With initial funding of $300 million, Leap will undertake bold, unconventional programs and fund them at scale. Programs will target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions within a decade.

“The global pandemic is our generation’s Sputnik. It is calling on us to respond
urgently—now—and also to create new capabilities for the future. We need new, risk-tolerant innovation organizations to drive health advances at the pace the world needs them, not only for the current crisis, but for the most pressing global health challenges of our time,” said incoming CEO Regina Dugan. “I am excited to lead Leap.”

Under Dugan and Flatley’s leadership, Leap will recruit program directors to build and execute programs that identify opportunities and gaps, intersect them with emergent science and engineering from diverse disciplines, and create ambitious multi-year goals with set end dates. Leap will assemble and fund teams comprised of scientists and engineers drawn from universities, nonprofits, and the commercial sector. Operations at Leap will use accelerated timelines beginning with abstract and proposal evaluations that take weeks rather than months. 

This process of putting together a “Special Forces” team of diverse capabilities was pioneered at DARPA and has led to a virtually uninterrupted 60-year track record of breakthroughs ranging from GPS to the internet. Leap will build no permanent labs, and program directors will be appointed for specific, discrete, time-bound projects. Leap will not expect a share of potential future commercial returns from its projects.

“In the fight against COVID-19, scientific organizations are dispensing with old conventions and assumptions to stretch the limit of what’s possible. The world needs an entity dedicated to operating that way at all times,” said Wellcome Leap Board Chair Jay Flatley. “Leap will pursue the most challenging projects that would not otherwise be attempted or funded. The unique operating model provides the potential to make impactful, rapid advances on the future of health.”

Leap’s formation was announced by the Wellcome Trust in 2018, with the ambition of exploring the boundaries of science for the benefit of human health. The new organization will be independent from Wellcome and governed autonomously to encourage speed, agility, and an appetite for risk-taking.

“We were aware at the start that we needed the right leadership to achieve real progress in the science of human health,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust. “To say that we are thrilled that Regina and Jay will lead this effort is an understatement. We are very excited to see where Regina and Jay take this organization and the boundaries they push. In the years to come, we hope to see new advances in human health that previously no one thought possible.”

About Leap Leadership

Leap CEO Regina E. Dugan previously served as the 19 th Director of DARPA from July 2009 to March 2012, leading world-class, global teams to deliver life-changing advances. The first female DARPA Director, Dugan oversaw an annual $3 billion portfolio of projects ranging from hypersonics to RNA-based vaccines. Dugan is also an experienced Silicon Valley executive, where she built and led advanced project organizations at Google and Facebook. She holds her PhD from Caltech, where she is a Distinguished Alumnus, and her B.S. and M.S. from Virginia Tech, where she was inducted to the Academy of Engineering Excellence. 

Jay Flatley is the Chair of Leap. He led Illumina as CEO from 1999 until 2016, as Executive Chairman through 2019 and now serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. As CEO of Illumina, Jay helped to transform gene sequencing from a scientific pursuit to a commercially accessible service and moved the cost of sequencing an entire human genome from $1 million to $1,000. He oversaw the company’s expansion from microarrays into next-generation
sequencing with the acquisition of Solexa in 2006, and from research into clinical and applied markets. During his tenure, he took the company from $1.3 million in sales in 2000 to $2.2 billion in 2015. Flatley received a B.A. in economics from Claremont McKenna College and a B.S. and M.S. in industrial engineering from Stanford University.

Jeremy Farrar and Mike Ferguson, both of Wellcome Trust, serve as directors of Leap. Jeremy Farrar is Director of the Wellcome Trust – a politically and financially independent global charitable foundation that exists to improve health by helping big ideas to thrive. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences UK, the National Academies USA, the European Molecular Biology Organisation and a Fellow of The Royal Society. Farrar was knighted in the Queen’s 2018 New Year Honours for services to Global Health.

Mike Ferguson is Regius Professor of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee, UK, and Deputy Chair of the Board of Governors of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Board of Directors of the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). He is a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh and of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a member of EMBO. He was knighted in 2019 for services to science.

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