Press release

Professor Jeremy Farrar named new Director of the Wellcome Trust

The Board of Governors of the Wellcome Trust is pleased to announce the appointment today of Professor Jeremy Farrar as the Trust’s new Director.

Professor Farrar is an outstanding clinical scientist who has built a reputation as one of the world's leading figures in the field of infectious disease. He is currently Professor of Tropical Medicine and Global Health at Oxford University, Global Scholar at Princeton University and Director of the Wellcome Trust's Major Overseas Programme in Vietnam.

He will join the Wellcome Trust on 1 October, succeeding Sir Mark Walport, who stepped down at the end of March to become the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. Dr Ted Bianco, the Trust's Director of Technology Transfer, will continue to serve as Acting Director until then.

Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The Board of Governors is delighted that Jeremy Farrar has accepted our invitation to become the next Director of the Wellcome Trust. Jeremy is one of the foremost scientists of his generation, whose work - much of it funded by the Trust - has contributed to better understanding, surveillance, prevention and treatment of diseases including emerging infections, influenza, tuberculosis, typhoid and dengue.

"He is also an inspirational leader whose vision has contributed to the rapid development of the Trust's Major Overseas Programme in South-east Asia into a world-class centre for infectious disease research. We are confident that we could not have found a better person to build on the exceptional work that Mark Walport has overseen at the Trust over the past decade."

Professor Farrar said: "The Wellcome Trust is one of the world's outstanding philanthropic institutions and one of the UK's most remarkable national assets. It will be a privilege to lead an organisation that has contributed so much to science, medicine and society, from the sequencing of the human genome, to the development of today's front-line treatments for malaria and a commitment to public engagement with science that is unparalleled.

"As a scientist who is grateful to have received Trust funding for my own work, I know first-hand how its flexible support makes such achievements possible. I am honoured to be given the challenge of helping its talented staff and scientists to deliver further extraordinary advances in health."

Professor Farrar has been Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, which is supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Vietnam Government, since 1996. His research interests are in infectious diseases and tropical health, and include emerging infections, infections of the central nervous system, influenza, tuberculosis, dengue, typhoid and malaria. He has contributed to over 450 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and serves on several World Health Organization advisory committees.

He was appointed OBE in 2005 for services to Tropical Medicine, and he has been awarded the Ho Chi Minh City Medal from the Government of Vietnam, the Oon International Award for his work on H5N1 avian flu, Frederick Murgatroyd Prize for Tropical Medicine by the Royal College Physicians and the Bailey Ashford Award by the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and chairs the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium, a global initiative to share data about emerging diseases that could become epidemics or pandemics.

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It does this by supporting the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities, with charitable spending of around £650 million a year.

The Trust is supported by an endowment of more than £14.5 billion (as of September 2012), which makes it the third largest charitable foundation in the world. It has distributed more than £10 billion in charitable spending since taking on its modern form in the mid-1980s.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

The Wellcome Trust was established in 1936 in the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, a pharmaceutical pioneer, progressive industrialist, philanthropist and archaeologist. The Trustees began work in 1937 with £73 048 in the deposit account.

Between 1936 and 1986, the Wellcome Trust was the sole owner of the Wellcome Foundation, Henry Wellcome's drug company. In 1986, however, the Trust began floating shares in the Wellcome Foundation and used the proceeds to diversify its assets. This has helped the Trust grow to become one of the world's largest charitable foundations, with assets of £14.5 billion (September 2012).

The Trust made its first awards in 1938 to Otto Loewi, who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1936 for his discovery of acetylcholine and its physiological actions, and to Henry Foy and Athena Kondi for their work tackling malaria at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories in Thessaloniki, Greece. However, it was not until the mid-1980s that its spending became significant, thanks to its share floatation.

From 1 October 1985 until the end of September 2012, the Trust spent £10.1 billion. It now spends around £650 million each year to achieve extraordinary improvements in human and animal health and expects to spend £3.5 billion over the next five years.

Examples of the Wellcome Trust's notable achievements include:

  • The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led the UK arm of the Human Genome Project - to decipher the 'book of life' - and ensured all data from the project were made public.
  • Wellcome Trust researchers in Thailand and Vietnam led the work on artemisinin derivatives that enabled the introduction of artemisinin combination therapy, now the frontline treatment recommended by the World Health Organization for uncomplicated malaria. Their work also led the way for artesunate to be recommended by the WHO as first-line treatment in the management of severe falciparum malaria in African children, who are the most affected victims of this parasite in the world, as well as for severe malaria in all patients in low transmission areas.
  • Key discoveries from the Cancer Genome Project have led to breakthroughs in how cancers such as malignant melanomas are treated.
  • Researchers at the University of Oxford pioneered the use of a 'talking therapy' for bulimia nervosa, a severe eating disorder. This was the first psychological intervention to be recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as the leading treatment for a clinical condition and recommended for use in the NHS.
  • Wellcome Trust funding enabled the research that developed the techniques leading to the first ever successful transplant of a larynx, trachea and thyroid in 2010, enabling a Californian woman to speak for the first time in 11 years.
  • Wellcome Collection, the free visitor destination for the incurably curious, opened in London in 2007, exploring the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. It welcomes more than 400 000 visitors a year to its critically acclaimed exhibitions and collections, lively public events, conference centre and the world-renowned Wellcome Library. Its overwhelming success has led to a major planned development project to transform its spaces.