Gates Cambridge alumna Julia Fan Li is director of a new $94m investment fund which aims to finance global health research.
A new investment fund directed by a Gates Cambridge alumna has been launched which, for the first time, will allow individual and institutional investors the opportunity to finance late-stage global health technologies that have the potential to save millions of lives in low-income countries.
The Global Health Investment Fund is structured by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The application of innovative finance principles applied to global health was researched and advocated by Gates Cambridge alumna Julia Fan Li where she presented the findings to Bill Gates Senior about the possibility of setting up a social venture fund following an internal Gates Scholars symposium during her MPhil at the University of Cambridge.
With $94 million committed by a pioneering group of investors – including anchor support from Grand Challenges Canada (funded by the Government of Canada), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (acting through KfW) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation – the Global Health Investment Fund (“GHIF” or the “Fund”) will help advance the most promising interventions to fight challenges in low-income countries such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and maternal and infant mortality. To help mitigate the risk of investing in the clinical development of new technologies, the Gates Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency have committed to partially offset potential losses in the Fund, which will seek a financial return for investors by targeting high-impact technologies with public health applications in both developed and emerging markets.
“The Global Health Investment Fund demonstrates the potential for innovative collaborations and thoughtful financial structures to mobilize new sources of capital for social challenges,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. “This product brings a diverse group of investors together around the shared objective of developing life-saving technologies in a financially sustainable way.”
LHGP Asset Management (“Lion’s Head”), a London-based asset manager specialising in sustainable development, will be responsible for originating, managing and exiting GHIF portfolio investments. In addition to the anchor supporters, the Fund’s investor group includes organizations such as the International Finance Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, The Pfizer Foundation, Storebrand and JPMorgan Chase, in addition to qualified individuals and family offices.
“We invest in global health because we know that when health improves, life improves by every measure,” said Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The aim of the fund is to encourage private sector financing of late-stage clinical trials which are costly and development expenses and are outpacing charitable support. The idea behind it is that traditional investment capital can play a meaningful role in solving this problem, particularly when it is supplied by investors who include the expected social impact of their activities in their return calculations.
“This innovative fund is mobilising financing for medical advances that could potentially save millions of lives,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “It shows that we can align the needs of investors with the need for cures for diseases which cause so much suffering in developing countries.”
New drugs and vaccines
The GHIF will invest in new drugs and vaccines, emerging diagnostic tools, child-friendly formulations of existing products, expanding manufacturing capacity and other applications that will help bring affordable technologies to those most in need.
“Innovation and investment in global health research and development are the way forward in tackling pressing health challenges and delivering meaningful results for those most in need around the world,” said the Hon. Christian Paradis, Canada’s Minister of International Development. “This Fund is blazing the trail, and Canada is proud to have played a key role in its establishment.”
“Millions of children die each year or suffer from debilitating conditions because the right treatment does not exist for them,” said Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Chair of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). “Relatively little investment goes to the development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics specifically targeted at children in developing countries where child mortality is most dire. CIFF is very pleased to be a major investor into the Global Health Investment Fund, which promises to deliver new finance and focus to this neglected area.
Julia  specialises in innovative finance for global health. She spent five years with KPMG LLP as a Chartered Accountant in the Canadian biotechnology practice working with a range of public and private life-science firms and subsequently served as a technical officer at the World Health Organisation. She has a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge where her research focused on building ecosystem incentives supporting healthcare innovation for bottom-of-pyramid markets. She also has an MPhil in Bioscience Enterprise from Cambridge and a BCOM (honours) with a dual concentration in finance and immunology from the University of British Columbia.
She says: “”I am very grateful for the Gates Cambridge Trust and their support for my research four years ago when GHIF was just a theory. Innovative finance for global health including new ideas and vehicles are important to continue long-term support for research and development. Innovation, social impact and access in health need to be considered together.”
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