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Conflict with Local Authority Forces Wellcome Trust to Scale Back Plans

PARIS, Oct 10 – The Wellcome Trust is scaling back its plans for a new genomics center and seeking new methods of financing after its blueprint for a 40,000 square meter campus was nixed by the UK’s Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions.

The Secretary of State overruled the Wellcome Trust’s plans to build an industrial genomics center due to fears that such a large facility in the village of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire would result in a large influx of new residents and commercial traffic.

The district of Cambridgeshire had put a freeze on new developments in the region prior to the Wellcome Trust’s proposal. Nevertheless, the Wellcome Trust went ahead with the plans. 

“Based on a right to expand and [operations] that are in the national interest, we thought we could justify the new campus,” said Michael Morgan, CEO of the Wellcome Trust’s Genome Campus.

The office of the Secretary of State was not immediately available for comment.

In an effort to compromise with the local community, the Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical trust, has reduced the size of its proposed campus to 24,000 square meters.

The reduction has not only forced the Wellcome Trust to downsize its plans it has also forced the charity to seek new methods of financing.

With an asset base of about $17 billion, the Wellcome Trust initially planned to privately fund the 40,000 square meter campus, hoping to get a sizable return on that investment.

The reduced campus, however, no longer makes sense as an investment because of the large infrastructure investment that must be made regardless of the new campus’ size, Morgan said.

“Now [the Trust is] looking at using a mixture of charitable and private funding,” said Morgan.

The revised plan limits the space allowed for private companies to 3,000 square meters at the outset with provisions for an additional 9,500 meters of space for private enterprises.

The new plan was scheduled to be introduced in mid-September but still has not been submitted because of continued friction with the surrounding community and the thorny financial and legal challenges of fusing private investments with charitable donations.

In a statement Wellcome said, “The Trust will vigorously pursue the resolution of these issues with a view to submitting an application as soon as feasible.”

According to Morgan the delay is frustrating because many private companies that are looking to establish operations in Europe are going to other countries, such as Germany, because the Wellcome Trust is currently unable to offer them a firm commitment.

Morgan added, “Remember it’s going to be 18 months to two years from the time we get the go ahead to the time we begin to take in new tenants.”

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