Between 1936 and 1986, the Wellcome Trust was the sole owner of the Wellcome Foundation, Henry Wellcome's drug company. In 1986, however, the Trust began floating shares in the Wellcome Foundation and used the proceeds to diversify its assets. The endowment has experienced an average 14 per cent growth every year since this first floatation, allowing us to greatly increase the funds available to disburse in charitable grants.
Henry Wellcome's will creates the Wellcome Group (the Wellcome Trust, in its present form), which owned the Wellcome Foundation Limited, the drug company. However, considerable sums had to be paid in death duties - partially funded by the sale of some of Henry Wellcome's historical medical collection during 1937-39 - leaving only £3 million.
The Wellcome Foundation Limited begins developing breakthrough drugs, and grows sales from £10m p.a. (1952) to £50m p.a. (1960s).
The introduction of blockbuster drugs such as Zyloric (1966) and Septrin (1967) caused sales to grow to about £400m p.a. by 1977.
Zovirax is developed in 1981, and becomes the world's first billion-dollar drug in 1985.
Henry Wellcome's will is amended through the court system to allow the flotation of 21 per cent of the drug company. The Foundation becomes a public limited company, Wellcome plc.
A secondary share offering raises a further £2.3bn and allows the Trust to diversify its assets further
The Foundation merges with Glaxo and, over the subsequent years to 2001, the Trust sells out of the combined Glaxo Wellcome shares to diversify its holding.
The Trust becomes the only UK domiciled non-public sector organisation with an AAA/Aaa credit rating and the first UK charity to issue a listed bond.
During the first 20 years of the Trust's existence, it disbursed a total of £1.17m of dividends. The Trustees allowed the majority of profits to be reinvested to build up the strength of the drug company during the next 20 or so years (up to 1972).
Between 1965-1991, the Trust disbursed about £100m. Grant-giving then began to grow from £20m in 1985, to £100m in 1992, to £200m in 1994.
The Wellcome Trust endowment now stands at approximately £14.5bn.