Virginia Tech is a charter member of the Leap Health Breakthrough Network, a global group of top academic and research institutions committed to helping solve the world’s most serious health challenges.

The network was announced Thursday by Wellcome Leap, a nonprofit organization founded by the Wellcome Trust with $250 million to accelerate innovations that transform human health over five to 10 years.

“Science and engineering should move at the pace of breakthroughs, not the pace of contracting,” said Leap Chief Executive Officer Regina E. Dugan, a two-time alumna of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. “Wellcome Leap has removed traditional obstacles to build a network that can mobilize and synchronize to solve problems in human health faster than has ever been possible.”

Virginia Tech is among the first 21 participants to join the coalition by signing a master academic research funding agreement that will accelerate future collaboration by outlining all terms and conditions, including intellectual property, and ownership and publication of research results. The Leap Health Breakthrough Network will be able to rapidly start working on the most pressing problems funded by Wellcome Leap.

“Virginia Tech and Wellcome Leap are both committed to building adaptive biomedical and health research teams that target complex human health challenges and achieve breakthrough scientific solutions,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “We are proud to be one of the first universities to sign a research agreement that smooths the path for us to collaborate.”

Currently, it can take as long as a year to finalize a research funding agreement, and when collaboration is required, work frequently cannot begin until all parties are signed further prolonging the delay.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of tackling urgent, large-scale health challenges quickly and across disciplines, organizations, and borders,” said Dan Sui, Virginia Tech’s vice president for research and innovation. “With this agreement in place, a significant portion of administrative burden has been lifted, making Virginia Tech researchers need to negotiate only the statement of work and cost for future collaborative projects with institutions within the network.”

Dugan, who holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and serves on the Advisory Board for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, was named CEO of Wellcome Leap shortly after it was founded last year with the goal of building and executing “bold, unconventional programs, funded at scale,” that will deliver breakthroughs in human health in the next decade.