Press release

Dundee joins global network dedicated to accelerated breakthroughs in human health

Published on 28 January 2021

The University of Dundee has joined a global group of leading academic and research institutions committed to solving the world’s most serious health issues - such as cancer and infectious diseases - at record speed.

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Wellcome Leap (Leap), a U.S.-based non-profit organisation founded by the Wellcome Trust to accelerate innovations that benefit global health, today announced the first participants in the newly established Leap Health Breakthrough Network.

Dundee is among 21 world-class institutions across six continents representing a network of over 150,000 researchers who have signed an agreement that sets a new bar for fast-paced research and development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of tackling urgent, large-scale health challenges quickly and across disciplines, organisations, and borders. It is 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 finalise a research funding agreement, and when collaboration is required, work frequently cannot begin until all parties have signed – further prolonging the delay. What’s more, key components needed to catalyse 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.

Now that the University has signed the MARFA, it 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 from development timelines.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal & Vice-Chancellor at the University, said, “Dundee is proud to be a charter signatory of Leap and to realising the collaborative advantage of this incredible network to accelerating health breakthroughs and transform lives.”

Dr Regina E. Duga, Leap CEO, added, “Wellcome Leap has removed traditional obstacles to build a network that can mobilise and synchronise to solve problems in human health faster than has ever been possible.”

The rapid research framework is hoped to advance breakthroughs in a variety of health issues worldwide.

"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 catalysed a first-ever global network that will help deliver, well beyond this pandemic, new breakthroughs along what would previously have been considered impossible timelines."

The University of Dundee has shown throughout the pandemic how we can respond quickly to the urgent need to establish research projects, pivot existing work to new targets and help the international effort to take on new challenges such as that presented by COVID-19.

University staff have engaged in and led key national and international COVID-19 research projects and clinical trials, helped establish laboratory testing, and offered expert advice to government.

Notes to editors

About Wellcome Leap

Wellcome Leap builds and executes bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale. Programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 – 10 years. Founded by the Wellcome Trust in 2020 as a US non-profit with initial funding of $300 million, Leap programs target complex human health challenges with the goal of achieving breakthrough scientific and technological solutions. Operating at the intersection of life sciences and engineering, Leap programs require best-in-class, multi-disciplinary, global teams assembled from universities, companies, and non-profits working together to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878