The Wellcome Trust will increase spending on research to £ 16 billion over the next 10 years, as the UK’s largest charity donor focuses on funding second- and third-generation vaccines as the world prepares for Covid-19 to become endemic.
sir Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome and former Sage member, said he believes there will be another coronavirus variant in 2022 after Omicron, adding that the country should not be complacent in the future strains of the virus would be less serious.
The UK needed to prepare for Covid-19 going from pandemic to endemic, he said, adding that the virus’ is a gift for life, not for Christmas.
Farrar stressed the need for the UK to work on the next generation of vaccines, arguing that by this spring the rest of the world will need access to existing jabs to reduce the chances of new varieties spreading.
He said the chances of a variant completely escaping immunity provided by vaccines and natural infection were slim, but added: “Our responsibility is to make sure we develop those second, third generation vaccines. it would happen next year, or tomorrow, or in five years, we are not back to January 2020. ”
The distribution of Omicron has now Peaks in London, says Farrar, who left Sage, the government’s pandemic science advisory group, in October to focus on his role leading the foundation.
But the rest of the country was a few weeks behind, he added, and the full impact of the Omicron wave will not be felt on health care until transfers in older age groups begin to show up wider after the Christmas season.
Wellcome will focus some of its new funding on second- and third-generation vaccines, he said, along with a wide range of initiatives designed to detect and stop the spread of 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 to support scientists, programs and institutions across the scientific and healthcare sectors, including £ 1.2 billion last year.
Farrar said the success of Wellcome’s investment strategy has enabled the trust to increase its charitable spending to £ 16bn over the next 10 years. It also planned to address global challenges such as climate change and its impact on health and mental health.
“This is a big, big growth of what we have done [previously]. [But] rather than spreading ourselves thinner, we will be more focused, and we will be more global. ”
Wellcome had its most successful financial year in 2021 since the trust publicly sold its last remaining shares to Glaxo Plc in 1995 to form the world’s largest pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome, with a return of 35 percent.
The trust’s total funds increased from £ 8.4 billion to £ 36.2 billion last year, with strong results from interests in private companies, including DoorDash, a US food delivery platform, and private equity funds.
But Nick Moakes, Wellcome’s chief investment officer, warned that from an investor’s point of view this year would be the most difficult since the financial collapse given inflation – and the likelihood of rising interest rates as a result – and the end of Covid stimulus.
Moakes predicted a “much tougher environment” for investors.
“We see bond yields rising quite sharply. “Rates are going to start rising, they apparently have a bit in the UK, but they will rise much more,” he said. Farrar also warned that taxes were rising at a time when costs, such as energy bills, were “going through the roof”.
“We are going to get to the point where there will be no further QE in the US and the UK. And there may even be quantitative easing. ”
Wellcome will invest more in physical assets that provide a hedge against inflation, such as real estate, he said, as well as in private equity and opportunistic transactions stemming from the pandemic.
He said inflation was “for the first time in more than a decade a political hot potato”, adding: “These are difficult decisions to make.”