With initial funding of $300 million, Wellcome Leap(opens in a new tab) will undertake bold, unconventional programmes and fund them at scale. These programmes will target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions within a decade.
Leap will be led by Regina E. Dugan as CEO, who is a former Director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Jay Flatley, the new Chair, is a former CEO of Illumina.
Regina E. Dugan, Leap CEO
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 organisations 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. I am excited to lead Leap.
Under Dugan and Flatley’s leadership, Leap will recruit programme directors to assemble and fund teams of scientists and engineers drawn from universities, not-for-profits and the commercial sector. This process of putting together a 'Special Forces' team(opens in a new tab) of diverse capabilities was pioneered at DARPA and has led to a 60-year track record of breakthroughs ranging from GPS to the internet.
Leap will not build permanent labs, and programme 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 organisations 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 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."
Wellcome Leap, announced in 2018, 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, Wellcome Director. "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 organisation 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."