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Wellcome Trust Starts $326 Million Health Investment Arm

The Wellcome Trust, the world’s second-largest biomedical charity, said it started an investment arm with 200 million pounds ($326 million) of initial capital to back biotechnology startups.

The Syncona Partners LLP unit will support new businesses in the medical-device, therapeutics, diagnostics and information-technology industries, London-based Wellcome said today in a statement. Long-term investments will amount to 1 million pounds to 20 million pounds each, it said.

“We expect to play our part in building successful businesses based upon innovation within the life science and health-care industry,” Syncona Chief Executive Officer Martin Murphy said in the statement.

Murphy, previously a partner at venture capital firm MVM Life Sciences Partners LLP, oversees a five-member team of executives at Syncona. The firm’s seven-member board is led by Nigel Keen, who is also chairman of Laird Plc, Bioquell Plc and Oxford Instruments Plc.

The Wellcome Trust’s assets, minus current liabilities, totaled 15.2 billion pounds on Sept. 30, ranking it behind the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It was established in 1936 under the will of Wisconsin-born Henry Wellcome, co-founder of Burroughs Wellcome & Co., a forerunner of drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc, and primarily makes grants to researchers.

More Global

The Trust said in its annual report on Dec. 19 that its 14.5-billion pound net portfolio has progressively become more global to gain exposure to Asia and other emerging markets and “has hardly suffered from the underperformance of European assets in the financial crisis.”

It reduced “home-country bias” by dropping the proportion of its portfolio allocated to the U.K. to 6 percent, from 13 percent in 2009 and 33 percent in 2006, according to the report. It also reduced European and U.K. assets to 13 percent from 22 percent in 2009 and 48 percent in 2006.

The charity said it made 1.6 billion pounds in the year ended Sept. 30, a 12 percent nominal return, and made charitable cash payments of 643 million pounds in the year.

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