Wellcome Leap (Leap), a U.S.-based non-profit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health, today announced the first 21 participants in the Leap Health Breakthrough Network, a global group of leading academic and research institutions committed to solving the world’s most serious health challenges — such as cancer and infectious diseases — at record speed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of tackling urgent, large-scale health challenges quickly and across disciplines, organizations and borders. It’s imperative that good ideas are identified and funded quickly, and that researchers across many institutions can build solutions together.
Currently it can take as long as a year to finalize a research funding agreement, and when collaboration is required, work frequently cannot begin until all parties are signed – further prolonging the delay. What’s more, key components needed to catalyze innovation sometimes come from individual researchers or smaller institutions that are often left out of major research initiatives. Breakthroughs require momentum, and diverse capabilities, wherever they exist globally.
The Leap Health Breakthrough Network will help eliminate barriers to progress thanks to the first-of-its-kind Master Academic Research Funding Agreement (MARFA), which equitably addresses all terms and conditions, including IP, ownership and publication. Once an organization signs the MARFA, any researcher or group will need to negotiate only the statement of work and cost before funds can be transmitted and work can begin. Often in days, shaving months or more off of development timelines.
“Science and engineering should move at the pace of breakthroughs, not the pace of contracting,” said Leap CEO Dr. Regina E. Dugan. “Wellcome Leap has removed traditional obstacles to build a network that can mobilize and synchronize to solve problems in human health faster than has ever been possible.”
Charter signatories for the network include: Agency for Science, Technology and Research; California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Francis Crick Institute; Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; National University of Singapore; University of Auckland; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego; University of Cape Town; University of Dundee; University of Pittsburgh; University of São Paulo; University of Southern California; Uppsala University; Vanderbilt University; Virginia Tech; Wellcome Sanger Institute; Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering; and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
“The world has just seen an unprecedented scientific advance — the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine in 10 months,” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. “Wellcome Leap has catalyzed a first-ever global network that will help deliver, well beyond this pandemic, new breakthroughs along what would previously have been considered impossible timelines.”
Participants in the Leap Health Breakthrough Network as well as commercial partners will play an ongoing part in Leap’s work to build and execute bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. This includes efforts such as the $50 million Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) program, announced in late 2020.
“The opportunities for health breakthroughs are rich at the intersection of life sciences and engineering. This network will efficiently bring together collaborators from across disciplines to drive and deliver advances in global health,” said Ken Gabriel, COO of Leap.
Institutions interested in joining the Leap Health Breakthrough Network should send an email to: HBNet@wellcomeleap.org.