No. 2: Wellcome Trust

The trust funds 4,000 scientists and a wide array of medical and biomedical research

UNITED KINGDOM - £556m

Mostly known for its work to improve human and animal health, the Wellcome Trust focuses on supporting talented researchers and accelerating the application of their research in the real world.

The trust funds 4,000 scientists and a wide array of medical and biomedical research including on how genes affect health, how the brain functions and solutions to combat a variety of infectious diseases.

In October, the trust announced it aims to invest £5bn over the next five years to improve health, as it launches a new strategic framework focussed on advancing the best ideas in science and research. Areas of research include drug-resistant infections, vaccinations and the link between human health and the environment.

The Wellcome Trust also informs the public on health related issues, often in a nonconventional way. Recent examples include Brainstorm, a play about the workings of the teenage brain produced with the Islington Community Theatre, and the National Rest Test, an online survey to investigate the nation’s resting habits and our attitudes towards relaxation and busyness, as part of a wider collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and Wellcome Collection’s researchers in residence, Hubbub.

Sir Henry Wellcome, born in a log cabin in the US in 1853, is the inspiration behind it all. As one half of the founding duo of pharmaceuticals giant Burroughs Wellcome & Co, its success enabled him to develop his passions: opening research laboratories and collecting books and objects on the history of medicine on a massive scale. With no wife (he was divorced) or children to leave it to, Sir Henry merged it all into The Wellcome Foundation, which he left to be held in trust, saying the capital should be used to advance medical research “to improve mankind’s wellbeing” and an understanding of its history.