Wellcome sees shares plunge

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The Independent Online
THE COLLAPSE in Wellcome shares yesterday was bad news for the Wellcome Trust, the charity which owns more than 40 per cent of the company, slashing pounds 200m from the value of its pounds 2.4bn holding, writes Gail Counsell.

The trust was set up in 1936 under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, an American entrepreneur, collector and medical scientist.

He had arrived in this country in 1880 and, with a fellow American, Silas Burroughs, founded the company which was then called Burroughs Wellcome. On Silas Burroughs's death, Henry Wellcome became sole owner of the company, took out British citizenship and received a knighthood.

After he died, all the shares in the company, renamed the Wellcome Foundation, passed to the trust. The largest non-governmental source of funds for medical research in the United Kingdom, the trust uses its income of about pounds 220m a year to support numerous worthy endeavours.

It has a relatively narrow focus, concentrating on high-quality medical research projects which often have little direct commercial application. But at Sir Henry's specific request, it also favours issues dealing with the history of medicine.

In the 1980s, the trustees of the charity became increasingly worried that all the trust's investments were concentrated in one basket. As a result, they floated the company, now known as Wellcome, on the stock market in February 1986.